My husband and I used to marvel at the stupidity of several unwelcome but amusing roosters that took up residence in our yard. Every night, they would have to relearn how to get up into a tree to roost. You could almost see them thinking: “Did I jump on the picnic bench first or the fence? Can I make it to the branch without getting up to the table first? No, that didn’t work. Was it the fence then the bench then the branch?”

A huge part of intelligent organization is not having to rethink tasks and routines that occur whether daily, weekly, monthly or seasonally. Checklists help take this load off our minds.

Ideally, we should automate as much as we can so that our brains can be free to think about deeper issues, be creative, enjoy the moment and all that good stuff. Automation can be as simple as creating checklists and templates on the computer so that they can be updated and printed out afresh as needed.

For example, you could type up a step-by-step morning routine checklist for your children so that nothing is missed as they get ready for school. As a parent, you might need a morning checklist of your own, which might start the night before with making lunches for the kids or laying out their clothes for school the next day or signing permissions slips and checks for school photos, etc.

Give your checklists specific names so that they can be easily found on the computer. Put them in a computer documents folder called “Checklists” so that they are all in one place.

Another area that checklists are helpful, if not essential, is travel. You might want a checklist for planning a trip, which would include all the steps in booking flights, cars, hotels and would have all your frequent flier and loyalty numbers included to make it super easy. Packing checklists for trips are wonderful, and a weekend trip would have a different checklist from a long vacation. A beach trip would have a very different checklist from city trip, etc.

Seasonal chores around the house are much less agonizing when you use a checklist. A winterizing checklist with date ranges for each activity to occur is really handy. Things like “store outdoor cushions,” “blow out gutters,” and “vacuum furnace and turn gas back on,” are tasks that could go on such a list.

If you have a vacation home, you probably already have a checklist for opening it up for use and closing it down for the season. Checklists to give to house, pet and baby sitters are wonderful.

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You could have a checklist for your evening skin care routine, grocery shopping, medical routines, home maintenance, entertaining preparation and clean up, children’s birthday party planning and on and on.

The best way to create a checklist is to start writing down each step of a routine as you are doing it. You can correct or add or subtract from the list to perfect it over the months or years. By having checklists on the computer, you can share them with friends and family. I’ve borrowed packing checklists from friends who are amazing travelers. I’ve given raw foods grocery checklists to friends who want to try a cleanse.

As any good pilot knows, as amazing as the human brain is, it is not dependable, and the adherence to a checklist is what makes air travel so safe. If those roosters had a checklist for roosting each evening it would have been, “Hop to bench first, jump to table second, spring to fence third, flap up to branch finally.” But that would not have been half as entertaining.

Angela Hoxsey is a professional organizer based in the Napa Valley. For information about her services, go to www.houseinorder.com or call 707-738-4346.

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