The Scientific Explanation on How a Checklist Habit Can Improve Your Life

12midnight - decades ago you can still consider this as one of the most serene hours of the day. Save from a few fellas having a midnight snack or a toilet break, most people are already deep in their sleep.

Today however, is a different story. Check out your social media, and for sure you’ll still see a bunch of your friends online.

What is it that’s keeping people up? Some might be studying or working. There are also those who are just scrolling through the newsfeed… checking out “what’s up.” It’s funny how spontaneous I get when I am like this –I remember accidentally coming across a terrifying ghost story post past 12mn. I’m absolutely sure I did not like what I saw and read! But there was no way to hold that back –I was already in some sort of an autopilot flow, hopping mindlessly from one distraction to another.

This example is a small scale picture of how the human mind works. No matter how strong it is, when it is unguided, it operates like a stray dog.

How helpful is a checklist, really?

Glenn Carsens-Peters via Unsplash
In Robin Sharma’s book, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, he stated that on average, the mind thinks 60,000 thoughts every single day. It doesn’t necessarily know which of those 60,000 thoughts belong to the top priority – save for those that are highly emotionally charged. And so because of this, most people are considered “sleepwalkers.” Their bodies are alive and awake, but their minds are suffering in a dozing state.

Scientifically, the best way to address this chaos is to help the mind (yes, apparently, we can help the mind) filter the thoughts that are more important than the rest; so that its energy is prioritized and directed to only a few special ones. We can do this by creating checklists.

From that controlled focus that checklists allows us to enjoy, the mind can then ignite the body more easily to take action.

The importance of checklists cannot be emphasized more. Every great achiever in any field makes a checklist. Pilots –no matter how advanced technology has progressed, still practice a checklist habit. Even the great chef Gordon Ramsay, in one of his TV shows, blasted out to a chef for not having a recipe checklist for his dish. He understands, like many other masters, that it’s a waste of time and a great risk going through the same thought process of remembering details every single time, especially under the heat of pressure.

Checklists are like mathematical formulas: they save precious mental energy and, in a way, process raw data to produce the desired output in an easier way. It is one of the most underestimated tools for gradual progress and efficient pursuit of any goal.


  1. Oh I’m a big fan of lists! I actually bought a notebook specifically for lists. There’s something very satisfying about creating and going through them.

  2. This is awesome! I use Reminders as my checklist for daily life and work life. They definitely improve my life! ;)