An Admin’s Guide to Effective Checklists

Jul 27, 2022 | Administrative Professionals, Procedures

Checklists help you stay organized, better prioritize your time, and see the “big picture.” They reduce the number of things you have to remember, freeing up valuable headspace for the things that really matter. And if someone else needs to fill in for you, they have a step-by-step guide to tell them exactly what they need to do.

A checklist can be as simple or as complicated as it needs to be. Some will only have a handful of tasks on them; others might be pages long. All that matters is that they serve their purpose: Making sure everything gets done.

Checklists are one of the simplest ways to keep you on track in your role as an admin, but many people underestimate their value. It’s easy to say “Oh, I’ll remember that; I don’t need to write it down,” but when you get busy or distracted, things have a tendency to fall by the wayside.

I experienced this firsthand when I worked corporately. My executive was leaving for a trip, and he was almost out the door before I realized I hadn’t made arrangements with a car service! It worked out in the end, but I’ll never forget that moment of stress and panic. It led me to create one of my favorite checklists ever – a four page travel planning checklist that I still use to this day.

You don’t have to create a checklist for everything all at once. In fact, one of the best ways to ensure you get everything down is to create a checklist while you’re performing a specific task. If you want to make a checklist for opening up the office, for instance, simply write down everything you do as you’re doing it. It might look something like this:

Beginning of the day:

  • Unlock doors.
  • Turn off forwarding on phones.
  • Check voice messages.
  • Log into PC.
  • Read emails.
  • Check/review calendars for today: (executive’s name).
  • Check tickler files.
  • Pick up notes/mail from weekend.
  • Review in-tray Items that came over the weekend.
  • Turn copier on.
  • Turn lamp/light on.
  • Meet with (executive’s/manager’s name) to review priorities for the day.

It really is just that easy. And now you have a checklist that will allow you (or anyone who fills in for you) to ensure that everything gets done and nothing is overlooked — without having to waste precious brain cells trying to recall every single detail.

You can do the same thing with any recurring task. You might have a checklist for travel planning, one for event planning, one for preparing for quarterly board meetings, and one for ordering office supplies.

In some cases, your checklist will need to be in chronological order. For instance, my checklist for speaking events lists things I need to do the day before, an hour before, five minutes before, after the event, etc. It’s very detailed, and I know that I need to follow it to the letter in order for to be successful.

In other cases, the order doesn’t matter as long as all the tasks are present and accounted for. If you’re making a checklist for tidying up the office lobby, it really doesn’t matter whether you water the plants or wipe down the reception desk first. Write things down in an order that makes sense to you.

Add your checklists to your procedures binder as you create them and update them as necessary. For frequently used checklists, it may help to put them in a visible place so you can follow along as you go.

Checklists make it easier to stay on task, ensure no detail is overlooked, and allow you to be more efficient in your admin role. Start creating yours today and watch how much more productive you become!

© 2022 Julie Perrine International, LLC

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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity, and Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures. 

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