We all know how useful checklists can be in our personal lives. The humble to-do list can make all the difference between a productive day, and a day in which nothing gets done. But how many of us realize that checklists are invaluable, not just for individuals, but for professionals?

In a new book called The Checklist Manifesto, the surgeon and author Atul Gawande explains how using a to-do list can make a difference to any kind of enterprise. The book’s ideas can work for anyone who is running a business – whether you’re at the company registration stage, which you can do via a company formation agent, or have been at the helm of your company for some time already.

Here’s how you can use checklists to improve your business’s efficiency, productivity, and profits.

Break Your Tasks Into Bite-Sized Pieces

Running a business involves lots of complex, multi-layered tasks. And if you’re not careful, that can get very overwhelming. This is where a checklist comes in handy. Before jumping into a project, write out your goal, and lay out each step along the way to achieving that goal. Breaking the task down into small pieces ensures that you will be able to keep forward progress going.

Using a checklist also gives you a chance to build some solid safeguards into your business. Many times, employees (and even business owners) have a tendency to bypass safety measures because they want to get a job done quickly. But if you build the safety precautions right into your checklist, they become an integral part of getting the job done right. And this means that neither you nor your staff will be tempted to skip them.

Keep Your List Short

It’s never a good idea to create a long, overly-ambitious list. That defeats the whole purpose of a checklist, which is to save you (and your employees) from getting overwhelmed by whatever projects are facing you.

A good rule of thumb is to keep your list to between five and nine items. If you try to pile on more items on your list, you run the risk of not getting all of the items done.

It’s also a good idea to tie your list to a specific date or a specific project. In other words, set a specific end goal and an end date. For example, if you’re just starting up your business and you need to get the company up and running, write out a list of all the things you’d like to get done in the first week. That could mean anything from registering the company name, to hiring new staff. Whatever’s on your list, make sure you include a date when you’d like it all to be completed.

Keep Your List As Simple As Possible

You should always aim to keep the items on your list as simple and clear as possible. Use specific, concrete language. The more specific and concrete you are, the likelier you are to move quickly through the list and to complete each task in good time.

Checklists Can Improve Communication Among Team Members

Any taks can benefit from a checklist. But checklists are especially valuable when you’re trying to divide up a big job among a number of people. Using a checklist when there are lots of people involved – and lots of moving parts – means that nothing will slip through the cracks.

In that kind of situation, checklists can also ensure that all the people involved communicate with each other at every stage of the project. In fact, communication can even be built in to the checklist.

Where to Get Started

Okay, so you’re convinced that you should start using checklists to make your business run smoothly. Now the question is, how do you get started?

There are a number of tools that can help you start the process. Here are just a few of them.

  • Checklist. This app has a terrific free plan that offers unlimited checklists, as well as due dates, reminders, and team management options. It’s available for both iOS and Android.

  • Tallyfy. This app has a strong emphasis on collaboration. If you’re leading a team and want to make sure they all stay on the same page, this app can really help you out.

  • Manifest.ly. This one was built to work well with Slack, which is a great tool for collaboration and communication. Manifest.ly lets you stay on Slack while you receive notifications.

In conclusion

Checklists can help you out in virtually every aspect of your business life. Even the most complicated task can be improved – and made more efficient – by the use of well thought-out checklists. Hopefully this has given you some insights into how checklists can make your company both more efficient, and more error-free.