A few weeks back I read this post on The Importance of Checklists. It’s a short post about why he realized he needed a checklist (because he forgot an important piece of gear) and a few ideas of what he’ll do in the future. As for me, I’m a checklist kind of guy and have been for as long as I can remember. I just can’t run my life without them!
Why Use Lists?
It still amazes me how some people I know survive life. They seem to be frantic and hectic and running all of the place most of the time. In my opinion, some of this is directly due to poor time management but also due to a lack of organization and proper use of lists. For example, it bothers me A LOT when I cannot find something. I use lists to ensure I know where certain things are. Certainly, I don’t make a list to remember where my nail clippers are but I do use lists to tell me what’s in various emergency supply bins. And, as these supplies tend to grow, I find I rely on my lists more and more.
Additionally, lists are for more than just remember where things are. They’re used to remind us of what we need to buy at the grocery store, supplies to add to your emergency gear, short and long term tasks (such as replacing water in water barrels every year, changing smoke alarm batteries) and also for the once-in-a-lifetime scenarios where we need to remember all the gear we want to take for a bug out scenario. I actually created an Excel-based reThinkIt! Preparedness Tools file that is meant to help you and your family plan precisely what supplies you’ll take if you ever had to bug out. Granted, you can easily make your own lists using pen and paper.
Types of List-Making Options
Of course, checklists can come in many forms, including tried and true pen and paper method, post-it notes, an Excel-based file, note-taking software on smartphones and tablets (there are a variety but I like the basic iPad Reminders app, many people swear by Evernote), online note-taking services (such as notepub.com), iGoogle gadgets (e.g., Stick Note), and probably a few other things I’m not even aware of. Obviously, some of these note-taking options are limited by Internet connections and grid-power, so there are some circumstances where they may not work when you truly need them to. As such, it’s wise to use pen and paper (or printed out lists) in some cases.
The nice thing about many technology-based note taking software is that they are (1) available anywhere you can access the Internet and (2) many services (especially iPhone/iPad) apps like to sync and share data so that it is always readily available no matter what device you’re using.
What I Do
First, it doesn’t really matter what I do but what will work for you… keep that in mind. Anyway, I’m a huge fan of using Excel and have been for a long time. I’ve used Excel for all sorts of purposes, from making shopping lists to bug out checklists and still use it to track my emergency supplies, though, I do print out hard copies whenever I make substantial changes to the Excel lists.
These days I find myself moving away from Excel mostly because I have another option: the iPad. I now find myself using the built-in (I think it’s built-in) Reminders app for tracking things like shopping lists, to-do lists, goals, etc. There are plenty of other apps, some free, others paid that may prove more useful but this one works for me in large part because it’s easy to use and allows me to create separate categories (e.g., “shopping,” “to do,” “long term buys,” etc). I should mention that many people seem to like Evernote (an iPhone/iPad app) but I remember trying it and not liking something about it, just can’t remember what it was.
While I don’t do so (because I don’t own a smartphone) these lists can be easily synced with an iPhone so you always have up-to-date lists; I’m not sure how syncing might work with other smartphones and tablets but I’d imagine somebody has it figured out.
I did occasionally use Google’s Stick Notes gadget (because I use iGoogle to read mail, feeds, watch the weather, etc) and it was ok but I’ve basically stopped using it since obtaining the iPad.
What Are Checklists Critical?
The short answer is that checklists are meant to keep your life from being a frantic mess! Take a moment and think about your life. Are you constantly searching for things, supplies, gear, etc? Do you seemingly forget something each time you head to the grocery store? Do you forget to call people back, change the cat’s litter box, take out the garbage, iron clothes, or pack a lunch?
Yes? Then use lists. They can be post-it notes, paper, apps, or whatever works.
More importantly, however, is that such lists will be there for when you absolutely need them. Perhaps it’s a bug out scenario and you only have 15 minutes to get your stuff and get out (if that long)… will you remember everything you need to take? Maybe not. Perhaps your mind is a steel trap 99.9% of the time but stress and panic can do a lot to wreck havoc on cognitive thinking. There are stories of people being unable to give the simplest of information to emergency responders–such as their street address or even their name–in moments of high stress. Maybe that doesn’t describe you or your family, I don’t know, but if you can utilize a list to ensure you have everything you need then by all means DO SO.
Similarly, even if it’s a shelter-in-place scenario the last thing you want is to be hunting for your emergency flashlights, propane heater, lanterns, and so on. Maybe you know right where this stuff is but perhaps other family members do not. You can use a list to remind them. You can even use a checklist to deal with specific scenarios. For example, if only the power is out then you’ll want to create a list that includes emergency gear to deal with that. Or, if there’s a boil water order (or no water) then another list could be used to determine whatever gear is needed for that situation. Get it?
In my humble opinion, use lists to your advantage… you can’t go wrong.