book review – the checklist manifesto

I love checklists. To-do lists, packing lists, shopping lists, menu lists, procedure lists – I’ve made them and used them and recommend them highly.

When I worked in Human Resources, for example, I created a list to confirm that new employees had all their paperwork completed before they attended Orientation. If you haven’t worked in HR, you don’t realize the federal, state and company-related documents that accumulate before someone even is put on the payroll. If a particular piece of paper is missing, the whole production grinds to a halt and you risk government sanctions or the person not getting paid.

The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande, came highly recommended from several sources. Dr. Gawande presents three uses for checklists:  in surgery, aviation and construction.

You won’t learn how to create a checklist or whether using checklists will make a difference in your life. What you will discover is Dr. Gawande’s enthusiasm for the humble list and the impact of using a checklist in his work.

The book is short and easy to read, albeit a bit redundant. I’ll save you the time – here’s the takeaway: Use checklists. Make them short. Make them specific. Get input from others. Test to ensure you’ve included everything. Determine a point person to ensure the checklist is followed. Use it.

Do you have a recurring task that could benefit from having a checklist applied to it?

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health maintenance

We all know that it’s important to take good care of ourselves, which includes routine medical tests and follow-up visits. You can lose track of inoculation dates and test results if you don’t have a place to store that information.

I have been using dropbox as my cloud backup, which I can access (usually) at the doctor’s office on my cell phone. I input physicians’ names, test dates and results, medication dosages and dates of injuries and procedures. When available, I also add digital x-rays. Utilizing the phone, which I (almost) always have with me is much easier than carrying around a big notebook full of papers.

This has come in handy the past few weeks, as I deal with a major dental procedure and deferred attention to an old injury.

How do you keep track of medical information for yourself and your family?

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more about hoarding

I received so much feedback about my book review of Stuff that I wanted to share more resources about hoarding.

Jaime Darkwood writes about what it’s like to live with someone who has hoarding tendencies and how to keep the behaviors from taking over the house.

Here is a great list of clutter clearing do’s and don’ts for working with someone who has hoarding disorder.

Selling a home that has been overwhelmed by hoarding is difficult, but not impossible.

A group helps someone with hoarding disorder to change his life.

Finally, although the movie Clutter is not a documentary, it deals with the family dynamics surrounding a woman who collects things she feels are necessary to her survival but which others view as pathology.

Do you have questions about hoarding? Let me know.

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product review – filofax

As a longtime Franklin Covey user, I was hesitant to make the change to another brand of planner. I wanted something smaller than the Pocket size, but needed something that had space to write where I needed to be on any given day.

Are you surprised that I use a paper planner? I use an electronic calendar when I’m sitting at my desk, but I also keep a paper calendar with me to keep track of appointments, mileage and to jot notes I want to remember. While I value the alarm function and the ability to make reoccurring appointments on my electronic calendar, I really prefer to write on paper with a pencil.

Several of my clients have been happy with their filofaxes, so I gave it a shot this year. Sure, there are things I miss about my Franklin planner, but I’ve learned to adapt. I like the diminutive Pocket size, which is perfect for my needs. I stick with just a few inserts – calendar, phone/address and notes plus a plastic pouch to hold the few business cards I keep. It’s just what I need and nothing more.

Do you still use a paper calendar or have you gone all electronic?

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paper or pixel?

According to a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, e-book readers read an average of 24 titles in the past year, compared with readers of physical books, who read 15.

Although I am very technologically adept, I am opposing the e-book wave. I still like to hold a book in my hand and turn the pages.

Which do you prefer? Why?

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book review – Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things

Most people have too much stuff; however, there is a big difference between having too much stuff and hoarding. Between TV shows about hoarding and numerous books devoted to the subject, the public has become aware of hoarding as a serious issue.

In Stuff, Randy Frost and Gail Steketee examine the lives of several people with hoarding tendencies and find evidence that hoarding may have a biological basis. Certainly, when food or materials were scarce, humans had a need to amass quantities of anything.

“Hoarding is not defined by the number of possessions, but by how the acquisition and management of those possessions affects their owner.”

For some people, the need to hold onto things is so severe, they feel actual physical pain when asked to let go. Generally, hoarding is based on one of the following beliefs: fear of being without, inability to distinguish value, reluctance to waste and strong personal connection to items. Even though you can prove that the beliefs are faulty, the individual with hoarding behaviors remains convinced otherwise.

One of the most interesting concepts that the authors submit is that their subjects could describe things in “overly elaborate ways, including far too many details and losing the main themes. It seems as though they are unable to filter out irrelevant details. Each detail seems as important as the next.” In addition, these people find multiple uses for the things that other people consider trash.

People who hoard have strong feelings about their belongings and are unable to let go of things easily. The authors remind us that simply clearing out the home of someone who hoards is not a solution.

Although the subject is very serious, the book reads more like a novel. It is easy to read and gives insight into what makes people hoard. What is lacking is how to work with these individuals to help them change their behaviors.

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productivity roundup

There have been some insightful articles on the Web about productivity recently:

How taking a break improves your productivity

Steve Jobs’ best productivity tricks

Michael Dean wants you to stop giving productivity tips

What you eat impacts your productivity

What’s your favorite?

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