J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

Focus Checklist v2

Focus Checklist v2

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It was time for an update.

Here’s my Focus Checklist v2:

Focus Checklist (v2)

Here’s what’s new …

I organized the checklist into more meaningful buckets.   It’s mostly the original list, but now they are grouped into better buckets to make it easier to turn into action.  After all, a great checklist is measured both by it’s value and how actionable it is.

Focus is often the different that makes the difference when it comes to succeeding at work and succeeding in life.   Otherwise, we don’t see things to fruition, or we bi-furcate our potential in ways that undermines our effort.

To make it easy to get to the Focus Checklist, I added a quick menu item to the feature menu:

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You can still get to the checklists from Resources, but the saying “out of sight, out of mind”, tends to be true.

By moving Checklists to the feature bar, it will remind me to continue to turn insight into action in the form of simple checklists.

I’ve long been a fan of checklists for building better habits and sharing and scaling expertise.   I’ve used them for security, performance, application architecture, and for personal effectiveness in a variety of ways.   There’s actually a lot of research and science behind why checklists are effective, but I like to think of them as simple reminders and automation for the mind, so we can move up the mental stack and focus on higher-level issues.

If you’re a fan of Personal Software Process (PSP) or Team Software Process (TSP), you’ll appreciate the fact that checklists are one of the best ways to quickly, efficiency, and effectively radically improve quality, for yourself or for the team.  Of course, that depends on the quality of the checklist, and your focus on actually applying it, and treating it like a living document, and keeping it updated with your latest insights and actions.

If you adopt checklists as your tool of choice for continuous improvement, you’ll be in good company.  It’s how McDonald’s and Disney spread best practices.  It’s how the best hospitals reduce errors and raise the quality bar.   And, it’s even how the Air Force keeps fighter pilots from falling prey to task saturation.

Like anything, the value of the checklists depends on the user and the usage, and if you treat it as a static thing, that’s when problems happen.   Use it as a baseline and adapt it to your needs, and update it based on your latest learnings.

If you do that, and you treat your checklists as continuous learning tools, and you continue to evolve and adapt them, then your checklists will serve you well.

Ugh … it looks like this post ran into some scope creep.  This was supposed to be just letting you know that I have a new version available of my focus checklist.

Luckily, my 5-minute timebox in this case, reeled me back in.

Enjoy.

PS – It’s worth noting that the practices behind this focus checklist are industrial strength.   Folks with ADD and ADHD have used the practices in this checklist to retrain their brain to focus with skill.  They learned to direct and redirect their attention, and to enjoy the process of focusing their mind on meaningful results.

  • Man, I love checklists. I've got checklists for seemingly every situation I need. So I was excited when I came across this list a couple days ago. It seemed different from all of my other lists. I felt as though I had stumbled across some "missing piece". But this is the third day I've stared at the list. It's been in one of my browser tabs for three days and I've tried my best to periodically try to understand how it might fit in with everything else. But, for whatever reason, I just can't make a connection. Maybe this is a list I just don't need. Maybe I have a different way of thinking. Maybe I go about things in such a radically different way that such a list isn't necessary for me. Or, my biggest fear, maybe I'm flawed that in such a way that I'm not yet ready to integrate this list into my life.

    That's not to say there's anything wrong with this list. I'm just trying to figure out why I can't figure out why this list doesn't resonate with me. :)

    Your highly respected feedback is welcome.

  • @ Alex -- Sometimes the challenge with checklists is that they better serve as reminders vs. instructions.

    Let's try this ...

    Start with the Focus Guidelines at gettingresults.com/.../Focus_Guidelines

    The guidelines explain the practices.  Once the practices really make sense and you can internalize them, then the checklist will be more useful.  Otherwise, the checklist just appears as a list of tips or good ideas.

    In the past, I've tried turning checklist into more guidelines, and guidelines into more checklist, but I realized they each serve a very specific purpose, and they are "better together."

  • @JD Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! Makes perfect sense now! Loving the guidelines, though I'll still have to figure out how/if they fit into my overall "thing"..

  • I'm agree with you @JD Meier - to have greater achievements we need focus and to have focus we need checklist! It keeps our emotional "animal" in reasonable frames. And I don't trust so much my memory as checklist!

    I use Excel table, for example, to mark key steps for everyday with 0 or 1 - did or not. 0 cell becomes red and 1 become green. Then I can look at patterns to see where I succeed and where I failed.

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us :)

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