How to create a checklist: the complete guide

Learn how to create an effective checklist that will help you stay organized, focused, and productive. Includes a step-by-step guide, tips, and best practices.


Author:Marissa Bergen

What is a Checklist?

A checklist is a list of all the tasks you must complete within a specific time frame. There are no hard and fast rules concerning format. They can be written out by hand on a scrap of paper, typed into an excel sheet, or tapped into an app. They can be for personal use, or they can be shared with others.

The only requirements for a checklist are:

  • It lists your tasks
  • It has a means for you to check off tasks once completed

What are the benefits of a checklist?

Creating a checklist provides the following benefits:

  • Keeps Your Organized: A checklist provides you with a list of tasks that need to be done ensuring nothing falls through the cracks.
  • Helps You Prioritize: When you look over your checklist you will be able to determine which tasks need to be done first and which you can put off until later in the day or tomorrow.
  • Reduces Stress: A checklist can make you feel less overwhelmed. It will lay all your tasks out in front of you so you can see what needs to be done keeping them from piling up in your mind.
  • It Provides a Feeling of Satisfaction: When you cross things off your checklist, you will feel a sense of satisfaction due to the progress you are making.
  • They Can Be Sharable: Checklists aren’t only for personal use. You can share them with your team to keep everyone on track.

How to Create a Checklist

While there are no hard and fast rules concerning how to create a checklist, it’s advisable to follow certain steps to ensure your list is well organized. These include the following:

Give Your Checklist a Name

The name you give your checklist should tell you its purpose and use. This will help you stay organized as you may have multiple checklists floating around.

If you are creating a daily checklist, you can name it something as simple as: ‘Things to Do Today'. 

If you are creating a situational checklist, it may have a more specific name such as: 'House Renovation Project Checklist'.

Provide a Date or Date Range

Including a date or date range on your checklist will help you stay organized. That way you can be sure you are not looking at a checklist that’s already been completed or one that needs to be completed months from now.

If you are making a one-day checklist, one date should suffice for the whole list. If you are making a checklist that includes tasks that need to be done within a week, or a month, you may want to break down your tasks and assign each of them to a specific date.

Add Tasks

The most important step in your checklist creation involves adding the tasks. Each task should be listed with the following elements:

  • A status update so you can keep track of whether the task is not started, in progress, or completed.
  • The date the task is due.
  • A field to enter the date the task was completed

You may also want to add subtasks for more complex tasks.

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Organize and Prioritize Tasks

Once your tasks are listed, organize and prioritize them. In terms of organization, you can lump tasks together under themes. For example, if you have school-related tasks, you may place them together in one section of your list. If you have tasks related to a work project, you may organize them in another section.

After organizing your tasks, determine a system for prioritization. Decide which tasks you would like to complete first and label them accordingly. You may give more important tasks an A rating while the others can have a B or C rating. Or you can color code tasks to ensure the most crucial ones are taken care of first.

Continue Adding Tasks

In an ideal world, you would complete all your tasks for the day and move on. And that may be the case if you are using a daily checklist (and you are extremely lucky!).

But in real life, tasks tend to pile up. Therefore, it’s best to format your checklist to allow for the addition of new tasks as needed.

Review Task List Regularly

You may find that tasks you thought were important have now dropped in priority, or perhaps now no longer need to be completed at all. Review your tasks each day and remove any which no longer need attention.

Creating a Digital Checklist

If you prefer to be old school, you may just want to write your checklist on a piece of paper. However digital checklists do have some advantages over pen and paper. They are easy to share, require only a phone, and are easy to edit without making a mess.

There are various types of software that are ideal for checklist creation such as Word and Excel. But for ease of use, you may choose a pre-existing software template. Fortunately, there are many companies that have these available.

Digital Checklist Examples

If you are looking for a checklist template, your first order of business will be finding a company that offers template services. Then search their templates to find the one that is best suited to your needs. Examples include:

Once you find the checklist you require, you can download it and customize it as you see fit.

A checklist is an essential organizational tool. Now that you know how to create one, you will be better able to stay on track in all that you do. Here’s hoping your checklists help you organize your work and home life better.

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