Checklists Can Magically Improve Your Productivity and Focus

Checklists Can Magically Improve Your Productivity and Focus

Checklists Can Improve Your Productivity and FocusOf course, you won’t really get magical results by using a checklist.

But it can get pretty close.

I remember when I was creating my first online course.

There were so many parts to develop that I was getting overwhelmed by it all.

I didn’t really know where to start.

So I did what people typically do when they’re overwhelmed.

I started letting myself get distracted.

  • What would be the best way to produce my videos?
  • Should I host them on Youtube?

Well, many Youtube accounts get cancelled without notice.

So then I’d lose all my course content.

Maybe I should find private hosting.

But it might be better to just get a backup hard drive to store my raw video footage.

Would that slow down my site, though?

I guess I should reconsider my hosting plan.

How many gigabytes or whatever they’re called?

And, oh… what’s bandwidth, by the way?

This is how my whole production effort was getting totally screwed up.

Because I didn’t know the “magic” of putting one foot before the other.

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First, I threw up my hands in frustration.

Sure, it would be easy to just quit and start something else instead.

Square One

But then, I decided to take a deep breath and go back to square one.

That’s when I wrote up my first “productivity schedule.”

And that’s really nothing more than a checklist.

Yes, it’s well documented that using a checklist will drastically improve both your productivity and focus.

And we bloggers need to do everything possible to be more productive and to sharpen our focus.

Some of our biggest problems are getting distracted and feeling overwhelmed by all the things we need to accomplish.

Distraction comes from hearing and seeing too many things online that tear us into different directions.

Overwhelm results in losing focus on what needs to be done in order to progress and move on to the next step toward our big goal.

Distraction and overwhelm result in losing focus on doing those things we need to do to be successful bloggers.

So checklists are critical to building our blogging business to the extent that they help us get past both distraction and overwhelm.

This is where the magic of the checklist comes to the rescue.


The first thing a checklist does is to help us focus on the task at hand.

Blogging involves many moving parts.

If even the tiniest, seemingly insignificant part is overlooked, our whole blogging Method of Operation breaks.

And when our Method of Operation breaks, our blog falls down.

So how can we be sure to carefully give each part our full attention?

Well, we can get some excellent insights from a Harvard Medical professor.

Atul Gawande is a staff surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

His blockbuster book “The Checklist Manifesto – How To Get Things Right” is about the importance of using a checklist in surgery.

Gawande Checklist ManifestoContinue reading the above excerpt of Gawande’s “Checklist Manifesto.”

Gawande talks about how surgeries could be compromised by omitting or glossing over even the tiniest element in the process.

Just think…

One tiny little thing gets overlooked or done haphazardly during surgery.

Not a pretty result at the end of the process.

The Checklist Solution

That’s why Gawande concluded that in order to focus on what’s most important each step of the way, surgeons really need to have a checklist.

Now, our blogs may not present life or death situations.

But everything we do (or fail to do) can lead to the life or death of our blogging business.

Have you ever left out a critical part to your blogging?

Or, have you not given enough focus to it?

Working with so many bloggers, I can pretty much assure you that there’s always something that gets left behind.

Or, there’s something that gets left undone or not done well enough.

This happens to all of us.

It’s easy to do.

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Like I said, there are just so many many moving parts in a blog.

And, do you know what I usually find?

The Weak Link In The Chain

It’s always the one weak link that undermines the overall chain of progression in our blogging business.

The one we didn’t think was so important.

Or the one we just didn’t like doing, or wouldn’t take the time to learn.

Gawande found this was the case with surgery, too.

He found that it was so easy for a surgeon to fail to do just one little thing.

Unfortunately, that one little thing could make a major difference in the surgical outcome.

That’s when he started to use a checklist during surgery.

Gawande Checklist Manifesto

Read more here…

He encouraged other surgeons to use the checklist.

Many of them balked at the idea, though.

And for many of the same reasons that my blogging students don’t want to “slow down” for even a moment to plot their course.

What do you think about using a checklist in your blogging?

Do you think that it is just too much work, too much red tape, or too silly?

It’s possible that you simply don’t like to admit that you’re less than able to effectively handle everything that comes your way, every hour and every day.

You prefer to believe that you…

  • can handle everything,
  • don’t need assistance,
  • can do fine without a standard “method of operation”,
  • don’t need a checklist to remind you to do everything correctly and accurately.

Yet, it is probably a struggle to make sure that everything is working on all fronts, and at all times.

This is what Gawande found when he tried to get surgeons to use a checklist.

Many of them believed that they didn’t need them.

That they could do just as well without them.

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Yet, the vast majority of them to did start implementing this process.

Gawande found that among that group, far fewer mistakes were committed during surgery.

So, my blogging friends…

Maybe you’ll find

  • you will make fewer mistakes
  • you’ll manifest fewer weaknesses
  • fewer key parts to your blogging business will be left unattended

…if you start using a checklist.

You can learn more about Dr. Gawande and “The Checklist Manifesto” on his website…


Can using a simple checklist really improve your productivity?

Having a checklist is one thing.

Having an effective checklist is quite another.

checklists increase productivitychecklists increase productivity

Read more here…

If you feel overwhelmed in your business, it could be that you just have too many things to do.

Adding insult to injury, you don’t have an organized way of tending to all those things.

Creating a checklist, though, can help you make sure that the most important things get done first.

It’s really important to avoid just being busy doing a bunch of stuff that feels like work, or gets misinterpreted as progress.

You have to prioritize your “bunch of stuff” so that the critical pieces do not go unattended.

This helps you to spend more time on the important things, and less time on the relatively insignificant things.

And it may help you to do the most important things first.

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That’s really important because, believe me, if you have 7 things to do in your business today…

… the first three are going to be most likely to get completed.

And they are the ones that will be done the best.

As the day wears on, you get tired, lose focus and start rushing through things more.


using a checklist may not help you get more things done, but it will go a long way to making your day more productive.

When that happens, you’ll be getting the greatest results for the least amount of effort.

Clarify Your Goals

A checklist also helps you clarify your goals, and that alone will go a long way to improving your productivity.

Did you ever spend a lot of time in front of your computer and feel like you accomplished nothing?

Chances are you didn’t.

Work does not equal production.

But, not only that.

There’s also an “invisible” component to productivity.

As you get to check things off your checklist, you actually gain confidence and motivation.

Confidence and motivation are essential to building the momentum you will need to make your blogging business grow and prosper.

Motivation and momentum keep you being productive instead of just busy.

To make sure your checklist is effective, keep these few things in mind.

  • Do the most urgent tasks first
  • Be realistic about how much you can do in a day
  • Give each task a strict time allotment + deadline
  • Write your list every day, and
  • Keep it in a place that you have easy access to.

Adhering to this checklist keeps you motivated and forward thinking.

The only alternative is continuing to feel overwhelmed and feel like you’re always falling behind.

You can learn more about this process here…


The real magic of working with checklist is in creating a fun environment that creates momentum.

And it rewards you as you reach specific milestones on your way toward big goals.

This is a process similar to what psychologists call a “token system.”

It is based on token rewards for each positive action.

That is why it is a tactic broadly identified as “positive reinforcement.”

In the digital world, it’s more generally referred to as “gamification.”

psychology of checklistspsychology of checklistspsychology of checklists

Read more here…


when you plot realistic and achievable milestone tasks mapped out on your daily checklist, you are setting yourself up to succeed.

Every time you complete a task well done, you get to check it off on your list.

Hence the name “checklist.”

Checklist Psychology

It’s a list of things you must do to keep your blogging business on track.

But it doesn’t feel like hard work because each time you check something off, your brain actually releases a chemical substance called dopamine.

Dopamine is psychologically associated with experiencing pleasure.

So, a checklist makes it fun to achieve your goals, not hard work or drudgery.

But it also makes you aware that you are capable of achieving anything you set your mind to.

As you succeed at one task and check it off, then go on to the next and check it off, task after task…

you are building up a series of successful events.

These are not only pleasurable, fun and rewarding, but they get you into the habit of succeeding.

Program Yourself To Succeed

They also instill in you a sense of motivation.

And, they give you confidence that you can actually do this.

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Your brain is telling you that you can and will succeed.

In fact, you are re-training your brain and programming it to succeed.

Make this process your consistent method of operation, and you are on the path to success.

Now, this won’t work so great if you make your checklist too detailed, or if you make it too complicated.

You see, unless your tasks are realistic and manageable, you cannot actually accomplish them consistently, on a daily basis.

Avoid Failure Programming

Likewise, you are bound to failure if you grossly underestimate the amount of time that it will take to accomplish things.

When you fill your checklist with tasks you really can’t complete effectively or consistently, the opposite of forming a success habit will happen.

You will, instead, start believing that you cannot get things done.

The overwhelm will start seeming very real.

You’ll begin to feel like

  • you really have too much on your plate,
  • that you’ll never be able to catch up,
  • you’re always falling behind, and
  • you just can’t do it.

You see, that may be where you’re at right now…

programming yourself to fail instead of succeed… day after day after day.

You go to bed feeling defeated and bruised.

  • Like you didn’t do half of what you intended to.
  • The harder you work, the further behind you fall.
  • Tomorrow will be yet another day of failure.
  • Meanwhile, everyone around you seems to be succeeding.

Does that sound familiar?

Checklists Can Magically Improve Your Productivity and Focus

You can change things now.

Starting today.

That’s the magic of using a checklist, and using it wisely.

So make sure that your productivity checklist is realistic and achievable on a day-to-day basis.

Every day you should be able to go to bed feeling good about the fact that you actually accomplished important things.

That will go a long way to ensuring that you accomplish your overall goals in the long run.

My Case Study

Okay, before I cut this off…

I want to finish my sad story (heehee) of feeling like I could never complete my training course.

So, here’s where I left off.

I put an end to trying to create a big course.

Instead of falling victim to despair, I set up a checklist.

I called it my production schedule because that’s really what it was.

So, Here’s What I Did

I outlined everything I wanted to cover in my course.

Notice, I “outlined” the topics.

That means I used just a short phrase for each topic, not a big write up.

I ended up with a full course broken down into 6 main modules.

Doing The Math

Each module had 3 sections.

So, that was 18 sections.

I scheduled myself via my checklist, to create one section each day for 18 consecutive days.

Then I did it!

  • Day 1, I shot a video demonstrating my first training.
  • Day 2, I shot a video demonstrating my second training.
  • Etc.

After 18 days, my course was no longer a work in progress.

It was completed.

Yayyy 🙂

And here’s the thing.

Momentum Happens

As I moved from day to day through my checklist, things did not get harder… they got easier.

I was on a roll.

Building up steam and piling up momentum.

In fact, by the time I was done, I was like a runaway train.

I moved on to the next course, then the next.

I created something like 2 dozen courses in about a year.

I’ve slowed down nowadays because

  • I did all the main training I wanted to at the time, and now they exist as perpetual, evergreen digital assets
  • I started doing less information-based training, and now do much more interactive group training and individual mentoring.

For those aspects of my business, different things must get done.

So, now I work with different checklists that keep me motivated and moving… always forward.

Now that you see how checklists can magically improve your productivity and focus, I would like to hear how you plan on using them.

I hope this article will help you to do exactly that.

So, now tell me in the comments section below…

  • Have you used checklists in the past?
  • Did I inspire you to start utilizing them now?
  • How do you think it will it change your business and your life if you can actually improve your productivity and focus?

Don’t forget to share this article on your social sites so that all your contacts can benefit from it.

Talk soon,



Author information

Donna Merrill

Donna is a well known blogger and creator of “Blogging Magic” – an intensive guide to blogging.

“Blogging Magic” is for beginners who are trying to figure out how to bring their blogs to life with tons of visits, comments and social media interaction. It’s even for advanced bloggers looking to reach new levels of authority and engagement with their audience.

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