I would always forget something when I went on holiday.


Often a little thing.


It didn’t spoil the trip, but it was irksome.


I’d instruct myself to remember it next time.


The next time would come. Yes, I’d remember that thing, but I’d forget something else.

Then I set up a page in my phone’s notes called ‘Holiday Checklist’.

I’ve been adding to it and using it before every trip for the last five years. It’s full of what to take and to leave, what to do before leaving home and what to check when we arrive. It’s brilliant.


Checklists are a wonderful way to be more effective.


I don’t use them because I’m stupid. I use them because of I know the two errors.

In his book, The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande makes a distinction between errors of ignorance (mistakes we make because we just don’t know enough) and errors of ineptitude (the mistakes we make because we don’t make use of what we know).


You’d have to be stupid to forget the same things to take on holiday when the solution is as simple as a list.


We have mental checklists too. My wife always ‘puts the house to bed’. It’s a memorised list where she ensures what should be secure is shut, what shouldn’t be on is off and around 700* other compulsions and traditions to be checked off before a good night’s rest.


Could I shop without a list? No! I’m a 55-year-old man – I need a list and a map.

The last time I went to Aldi for a couple of items without a list, I got stuck in the famed middle aisle and came home with a set of welding goggles, 128 jumbo pegs and a horse box.


And still forgot the milk.


Checklists have a serious side too.


Would you fly on a plane where the pilot relied on a pre-flight ‘see what I can remember list’?


Or be happy with a surgeon who was… pretty certain they’d taken everything out they’d put in? It’s life and death not a Kim’s Game.


There’s nothing wrong, and a lot right, with having a checklist.


What’s on yours?


Please share how you use checklists below. I’ll send a copy of Atul Gawande’s brilliant book The Checklist Manifesto to our favourite.

Be Brilliant!



  1. August 11th 2022 by Martin Wadsworth

    My wife regularly makes a list of the lists she has to make. Works every time! 🙂

  2. August 11th 2022 by Lisa Warner

    I use google keep app which I use to record all sorts of checklists including your aforementioned holiday checklist.
    I have checklists for Christmas, things I need to get on next food shop, goal checklist, a checklist for things I normally buy at Costco so I don’t forget anything, cleaning checklist, etc. Basically anything!

  3. August 11th 2022 by Judith (Judy) Brulo

    Funny you should mention forgetting the milk. It reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s book ‘Fortunately the Milk’.
    What if you forget to check the checklist do you have to have a checklist reminding you to check the checklist?? Ha-ha!

  4. August 11th 2022 by Sandra White

    When I travelled a lot for work, sometimes at short notice, I had 3 lists of what I needed to pack pinned on my study wall.1. Always ie washbag; 2. Summer ie sun lotion 3. Winter ie hat and gloves. It saved a lot of time.

  5. August 11th 2022 by David Viner (author of Time Portals of Norwich)

    As I regularly attend events like Farmers Markets and craft fairs in order to promote my books, I have printed out several copies of a checklist listing all the things I need to put in the car to take to the events before I drive off. I have printed out several lists as I’m likely to lose only one!

  6. August 11th 2022 by PAMELA SMITH

    Good old pen and paper list for me.I have to multi task constantly.Most definitely my calender is essential too !
    I would never be in the right place at the right time and am always checking my notes on it.
    Lists are King and I’m certainly the Queen of them! .

  7. August 11th 2022 by Michelle Hurst

    Have always ised checklists. Going away soon and out come the lists and each thing gets stroked off once its done or packed.
    I never used to take a list when I went food shopping just bought on a whim, ‘awk that’ll do”. Not anymore, I have written down all different various meal ideas and put them in a jar. On a Thursday evening my boys pick out the meals for a week, I then plan when we are having those meals (especially with other activities that they need to be taken to, so quickly prepared meals on those days) and then I shop on a Friday morning buying exactly what I need for that week and I don’t have to sit and think “what are we having for dinner”. Plus it has saved on food waste and spending on what I don’t need.

    Checklists are the way to go, definitely!

  8. August 11th 2022 by Julie Jones

    This reminded me of a Professor I knew at Uni. He used to sing the song…no milk today… He would ask students if there was:
    No milk because she’d gone away and wouldn’t be going for it.
    Or not need any because she was usually the one who drunk it.
    Some things stick in your mind.

    Incidentally. I have a piece of green A4 paper written in the 90s.
    My holidays check list.

    I never know where I’ve put it.

  9. August 11th 2022 by Anne Anderson

    ‘Don’t worry. It’ll be on Mum’s list’ used to be one of the family jokes in our house as my son and daughter grew older and always said with a smirk as they looked at each other. Neither child understood my need to plan ahead by making a list whether it was for the regular supermarket visit, resources needed for my next week’s lessons as a teacher, or what to pack for a well-earned holiday. Both grew up evading the ‘list’ thing as a matter of principle, tempers exploding if I suggested making one. Even though throughout the years, many important items have been forgotten by them as they go about their daily lives, they still cling onto the opinion that ‘lists’ are not required. Chaos rules their lives and I no longer try to nudge them into my way of organisation. I am a ‘list’ woman and always will be. Tick, tick, tick …

  10. August 11th 2022 by Lesley Renault

    Being a one parent family with three children lists were essential, from what was needed in school bags to what things had been bought for Christmas. Going away always needed lifts of what to take for the journey, what was needed when we got there not to mention all the important documents like tickets, passports etc. Then there are the jobs each child had to do that week to get their pocket money, changed each week. When they eventually went to UNI there were lists of essentials, plus recipe books of their favourite recipes,
    Even now I use lists for shopping, going on holiday, going to stay with my children or even just going fit the day. I have to do list, to take list, phone call lists and shopping lists.
    Doing my science parties I have lists of what I need for each segment, both apparatus and things like icing sugar, bicarb, lemonade and mentos, that need to be bought.
    Life without lists would be impossible.

  11. August 11th 2022 by Noel Wincote

    My checklist is: a Christmas food list, I’ve used the same one now for more than twenty years and it has never changed, only added to as some of my tastes change and the diversity of foods increase.

  12. August 11th 2022 by Lorna Clark

    I have a list of things to do before I leave for my caravan and a list of things to take with me.

  13. August 11th 2022 by Mike Rainey

    Every evening I write out a list of things to be done tomorrow. In theory I work my way trough that list on the following morning. I admit it does not always work out quite like that but there is great satisfaction in ticking the items off.

  14. August 11th 2022 by Annie Watsham

    I have a ‘Major Jobs to Do xxxx 20xx’ list which has been going on my computer since 2008. I delete what’s just/recently been done and more importantly I delete anything that’s been on there TOO LONG and hasn’t been addressed. I update it and print it out very regularly.

    I can GUARANTEE that shortly after something that’s been on there for too long has been deleted (and it may have been there for a VERY LONG time) something will happen connected with it…after all, nature abhors a vacuum 👍👍

  15. August 11th 2022 by Carolyne Collins-Atkins

    Every night before going to sleep I make a list of the people who have upset me ,being rude, sarcastic ,or not eating a meal I spent hours preparing that day!
    Next day I get out my Christmas card list, black pen at the ready and cross them off the list!

  16. August 11th 2022 by Eileen MacInnes

    I love lists.
    I have all the usual ones – shopping, To do today, To do this week, To do this month, long term goals. Gardening list.
    If I need to be somewhere at a particular time I have a Time schedule, starting with time I need to be there then every activity I need to do has a time slot until it is time to leave the house. Love checking the time and ticking off when I am on schedule.

  17. August 17th 2022 by DEE

    BIIIIGGGG CHECK LISTSssssss (though size isn’t everything!!!)
    My (printable A4) Excel spread sheet TRAVEL checklist dates back over 20 years!!!
    It’s been refined and updated & has the tiniest text size so it all fits on the one page if printed
    and has it’s folds suitably positioned!
    Designing it all that time ago has saved HOURS & HOURS of thought AND the effort of sourcing plus the inevitable cost of missed items!!
    As you can imagine it’s columns are also in categories so that I may only need to check off one section… say “Office Stuff” that would include mini-printer, “Leisure” that would itemise snorkel & kayak gloves if the hands would blister from long choppy sea canoeing conditions on that “Holiday”, “Medical” if crutches needed to go along after a foot injury….. my checklist seriously had (and has) EVERYTHING conceivable except actual items of clothing (unless
    essential to activities)!!!
    Looking at said list with, in mind, Michael’s latest fascination for how our minds tick…. I’m not
    sure any of my items (current or historic) are worthy of being a favourite to win the intriguing
    “Checklist Manifesto” but those below are a reflection of how things change too…. when lists get out-dated or updated!!!
    YES, my list IS NOW committed to mobile but the printed version does work out really fast as I leave a VERY quick “blob” right next to any outstanding items and I truly believe it’s quicker than scrolling through my phone in this case!!!
    In no particular order I list a FEW QUIRKY ones pre & for TRAVEL below!
    DVD’s/books to library
    Some of us still have DVD players and MANY of us have actual (virtually obsolete) DVD’s
    occupying shelf space or boxes in storage.
    Before a trip away I needed to remind myself to return those still “borrowed” from our library,
    or the online “LOVEFILM” hire so that I wouldn’t get fined for late return. So a wry smile when I saw that entry!
    PLANE/NO sharp objects in hand luggage
    Just one BIG “blob” against this one, to remind me, right at the last minute, (as well as whilst packing) NOT to “carry on” potential weapons in my cabin bag.
    Swap Car CDs
    Also relatively obsolete as everything is connected wirelessly to the “in car entertainment
    system” via our mobiles now!!!
    CASH/Euros etc
    We have our cards or just wave our mobiles at objects we desire to purchase now so perhaps
    even this needn’t be on our checklists anymore???
    XDA & charger/car socket & windscreen sucker
    What’s an XDA??? Well ours (as well as being our mobile phones) were our Satellite Navigation systems way back on my early checklists…. complete with car socket cable and windscreen sucker that dropped off in random locations!
    Postage stamps, mini printer, envelopes
    We often had to create mobile offices for our projects so these items were essential.. again
    not so now… we email most documents that we generate digitally so envelopes become
    unnecessary… as do postage stamps!
    Well those are pretty uncommon on an average travel checklist but on a personalised one?
    Simply NOT a thing to be forgotten!!
    Yep…. but even THEY are on our mobiles now!!
    If, even as a seasoned & qualified mountaineer, you’ve had an encounter with todays hormone enhanced cattle… walking poles (resisted as being a bit “woosy” by hardened adventurers, do
    have their place on journeys where these wilder domesticated creatures occupy the only bit of
    steep cliff you have to cross to arrive at your pub/rest/reward that’s tantalisingly in sight!!
    Passes lanyards
    In our “industry” arriving without your lanyard/security pass (as at many sites/outlets) can wreak havoc… got to be on the checklist!!!
    Your love or hate Marmite and that’s hard to obtain if you’re abroad for a while plus special
    teabags though they’re easier!
    Ultimates (FINAL) 1
    The one that contains (variously)
    Tickets/passports/mobile/charger cable/wallet/specs/sunglasses
    With (less common?) cash/watch/sun hat/sun-creams
    With (more common) Costa Coffee in reusable or eco friendly cup OR bottle of water
    With (if you had removables you’d want them on your checklists) TEETH
    Ultimates (FINAL) 2… the catchy phrase…
    Testicles, spectacles, wallet & watch
    My checklist IS regularly updated and, if not, might achieve entry into a museum???
    DAILY checklist is aimed (as advised by Michael MANY years ago) to be ACHIEVABLE …. so that
    it’s not too demoralising when the items aren’t ticked or crossed through!!
    With love from a “Matriarch of Lists” DEE xx

    1. August 18th 2022 by Michael Heppell

      Best list ever!

  18. August 18th 2022 by Carol Andrews

    Before going to bed I list the things I should have done, or intended to do that day so that hopefully they might get done the following day! Always do a shopping list, have a standard one that I check off each week with space for different or occasional items. Regularly have ‘to do’ lists for Christmas or when I am going travelling, etc but still invariably forget something vital, usually a hat to protect from the sun; I now have a choice of 3.

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