Do You Make These 10 Common Checklist Mistakes?

We all use checklists from time to time, whether it’s a mental checklist to remind ourselves of the tasks we need to do or a physical checklist to help us pack for a trip. But are you making these 10 common mistakes when creating and using checklists?

1. Assuming that everyone uses your checklist the same way you do.

Each person who reads your checklist will probably go through it differently. A new manager, for instance, might read every step on a troubleshooting guide before proceeding, while an experienced worker might prefer to skip ahead and come back to the early steps if they run into a problem. Make sure you know what your audience needs and adjust the way you present information accordingly.

2. Writing a long checklist that is intimidating to use.

If you have more than 10 items, break them up into several checklists, or make items optional if they’re not absolutely necessary for every task. Otherwise, you may discourage people from using your checklist at all.

3. Keeping your checklists to yourself.

If no one else is going to use it, why bother creating it? Checklists are most useful when they’re actually used by the person who needs them. So share your checklists with whoever might find them helpful.

4. Making your checklist so generic that it’s useless.

People have to understand what you want them to do before they can determine whether they’ve done it. So make sure any checklists you create are understandable and applicable in a real-world setting. Use action words, avoid passive language, and provide specific examples whenever possible.

5. Making the same checklists over and over again for every project you work on.

Even if your checklist is perfectly suited for completing a specific task, it’s not very useful if you don’t remember to use it in the first place. Try creating a general-purpose checklist that covers a wide variety of tasks, rather than specific checklists for individual projects.

6. Forgetting to update your checklist after you’ve completed a project.

Before you reuse that same checklist for another project, take the time to go back and remove or update the items that are no longer relevant. If it’s been about six months since you created your last project, it might be worth your time to create a new one too.

7. Using vague language that could lead to different interpretations.

The more specific you can be about what you want people to do on your checklists, the more likely they are to follow your instructions correctly and completely. Use action words so there’s no doubt about the next step in the process, and avoid using jargon or abbreviations whenever possible.

8. Listing things that aren’t actually necessary for everyone to do on every checklist.

Not everyone needs to perform all of these steps, so make sure your list is complete but not overwhelming. Is this really something you’d need to refer to every time you do this task, or is it only important in some cases? Are all of the steps completely necessary, or can someone skip a few on occasion?

9. Making your checklist open-ended.

Using words like “or” and “optional” make it too easy for people to cut corners on your checklist. Instead, be clear about what you want people to do and how you want them to do it.

10. Forgetting to use a checklist yourself before you start a project.

A little preparation can go a long way toward a successful outcome, so take your own advice and create a quick checklist for big projects or tasks that you haven’t performed in a while. You’ll be able to make sure everything gets done the way it should, and you might even save yourself some time.

BONUS MISTAKE: Assuming your checklist will fix all of your problems.

Even the best checklists won’t solve issues like running out of supplies, not having the right equipment, or not knowing how to do a particular task. You can’t always anticipate and account for every possible problem, but your checklists sure will help you deal with them when they happen.

One great way to make your daily checklist organized is to use Venngage — an online checklist maker and free infographic maker that offers a wide range of checklist templates for everyone. Here are some basic checklist examples from their website!


That wraps up our list of 10 checklist mistakes that you should avoid making in the future. Remember, if you’re having a hard time making one, consider using Venngage. To start making your checklist now, click here!