Checklists: The Simple Secret of the World’s Best Pilots, Surgeons, Builders, and Financiers

Leverage the Power of Checklists for Happiness

Checklists—yes, a simple list of things that you check off—have been instrumental in making flying the safest way to travel for decades[1], making the building failure rate in the United States .00002%[2], and have been used to reduce death during surgery by 47%[3]. The checklist has been implemented by venture capital investors to make billions of dollars, and by hospitals to save billions of dollars[4].

If it is good enough for those incredibly complex systems and problems, it just might be good enough for our happiness.

What Makes A Good Checklist?

Not all checklists are created equal. The most effective ones usually meet the following criteria:

•           Concise

•           Take less than 60 seconds to complete

•           Range from 5-9 items (more and people take shortcuts, fewer and why bother?)

•           Include clear pause points (when to stop the action and use the checklist)

•           Have a clear context

•           Each item on one list is consistently “Read-Do” or “Do-Confirm”

•           They are tested in the real world, modified, tested, modified, and so on…


They are not meant to include everything—just that which is most important and easiest to forget.

The Happiness Checklist

DailyHap is a daily happiness checklist (if you do the haps). So if you are reading this article, you are already on the right track. But some haps probably really speak to you and others are not as meaningful. Some are already an integral part of your daily life, some are reminders, while others are completely new ideas.

Your challenge is to search the site, think about the most simple, effective, and easily forgotten activities that increase your happiness, and create a checklist. Here is a sample to get you started:

Sample Daily Morning Happiness Checklist

As soon as I wake up… (Read-Do)

☐ Dedicate day to higher power & to be of service to others

☐ Chug a glass of water

☐ Meditate

☐ Gratitude journal, five minutes

☐ Play happy song—dance & sing while dressing

☐ Read DailyHap


 Leave your lists in the comments, we’d love to know what you’re finding most important and helpful on a daily basis!

[1] Jacobs, Peter. 12 Reasons Why Flying Is The Safest Way To Travel. 9 July 2013. Accessed March 26 2014.

[2] Gawande, Atul. The Checklist Manifesto. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2009. (

[3] Gawande, Atul. When Checklists Work and When They Don’t. The Incidental Economist. March 15 2014. Accessed March 26, 2014.

[4] Gawande, Atul. The Checklist Manifesto. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2009. (

Image: Some rights reserved by Official U.S. Navy Imagery

Category: Psych


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