I always thought I was far too young to be needing check lists. In my mind, check lists were the inevitable accessory for (generally speaking) parents, and in particular my parents, when they were preparing our ski vacations and making sure that everybody in the family had a matching pair of gloves, skis, boots, etc.
When I arrived in Chicago for a recent business trip, I pulled out of my suitcase (with a small degree of smugness) the all-essential adaptor. A gift from my UK colleagues at Next Action Associates. In the UK they are regular users of such devices as absolutely no other electrical outlet in Europe corresponds to the one in the UK.
I cannot tell you just how many adaptors I have purchased in my life, purely because I didn’t have this little device on my radar when packing my suitcases. That has changed. The day Next Action Associates rewarded me with this practical gift I had an epiphany: I wrote a travel checklist! Mind you, this has absolutely nothing (nothing at all!) to do with my age! Rather, with my ongoing learning through monetary pain and a gradual acquisition of wisdom.
To tame my ‘checklist phobia’ I rewarded myself with something pretty – to my eyes anyway. And I got creative too. I thought about all the things that had gone wrong in the past; ranging from adaptors, to having a flight but no hotel room, or no car reservation, no pre-reserved parking spot at the airport, no swimsuit in a beautiful spa hotel – all the way to mundane things like participant lists, evaluations, diplomas or loudspeakers.
I peppered the whole thing with ‘nice to haves’, such as a line asking: “is there anyone I need to meet at said destination?”. A question that makes me think for a second during preparation frenzy: “Where am I going? Is there anyone I’d like to meet?” and then decide whether that person would be fun, strategic or otherwise useful to meet… or not. In short, I am not belatedly realising once there that I could have made wonderful use of my evening to catch up with an old friend, instead of being bored in yet another hotel.
So yes, I admit it. I’ve become a checklist fetishist. I have all kinds of checklists in all sorts of formats. A business checklist and a horseback riding checklist, which is just as important as the skiing checklist, because the items you need are usually scattered around the house. These are word documents that I print and that I can amend, as I discover new items that have fallen of my radar and perhaps required a purchase or last-minute pleading with hotel staff.
I also have checklists by city. These are the “when in” lists as introduced by David Allen. I actually had these for years but didn’t admit that they were checklists… rather, gentle reminders not to forget to bring things to my parents when travelling to Germany or purchase things I can only get there to bring back home to France.
I now have “when in” lists for all of my regular destinations. My “When in New York” list contains my favourite place to have breakfast, the shirt size of my husband when browsing a Brooks Brothers Store, and the exact address of the TKTS booth. These are just informal lists on an app on my phone.
Since I gave into the practice of writing my lists and amending them with experience, I had many jubilatory moments in which I didn’t hit my forehead in shame and exasperation at my forgetfulness, but with a slightly smug smirk on my face when pulling my adaptor out of my suitcase!
What about you? Do you hit your forehead or do you smirk?