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Why You Need More Than Just a Checklist

Updated: Jan 19

Are you someone who loves making checklists?

Do you make a list and check it twice?

Do you write things on that checklist only to cross them off a few minutes later?

Ahem... I'm talking to you, Ms. Drink a cup of water... ✅

Do you often ask yourself, "Am I being productive?" despite ticking off all the boxes on your to-do list? If so, you're not alone. Many people think a checklist is all they need to achieve their goals and intentions.

The truth is, a list alone won't get you very far.

[I had to be direct about that last comment. If you need a moment to take a breather, please do, and I'll see you back here in a few.]

A story...

When I started my money coaching business, the list of to-dos was a mile long.

Buy my domain

Draft website copy

Re-draft website copy

Re-re-draft website copy

Get a business Instagram handle

Post on said Instagram page (that's here)

Get my EIN

Open a business checking account (a clear sign to the universe that I was ready to bring money in from this business!)


At first, I felt great whenever I checked off an item on my list. But as the weeks passed, I realized that something wasn't working. Even though I was completing all the tasks on my checklist, I wasn't really running a business. I was setting one up, sure. But running one, nope.

That's when I realized I needed to do more than check off items on a list to accomplish my goal.

Here's why a checklist alone won't accomplish your goals or intentions:

  • It doesn't take into account what happens when you're too deep IN your business instead of working ON it.

Little tasks can quickly overtake your day, no matter how carefully you plan. You know that feeling when you've been in your inbox for two hours and haven't gotten to the meat of what you want to accomplish for the day?

Maybe the 3-3-3 Method could be successful for you. You get to create a list but won't get stuck in the quagmire.

It goes like this...

Start your day by outlining these items:

Three hours on your most important project (if it helps, you can document what you'd like to accomplish during those three hours)

Three shorter tasks that need to be taken care of (ex: sending an invoice, responding to an email, putting an event on your calendar)

Three maintenance activities that keep life running (ex: running to the grocery store, exercise, meditation)

  • It doesn't hold you accountable.

A checklist is a passive tool that doesn't require you to take action or make changes. It's easy to tick off the boxes and forget about your goals for the rest of the day. There's no sense of urgency or accountability. That's why it's essential to complement your checklist with a system that holds you accountable, whether that's a friend, a coach, or a habit tracker.

  • It doesn't inspire creativity or innovation.

Sometimes, the items on your to-do list feel like a chore. You might think you need to follow the steps precisely to accomplish your goal. But that kind of thinking can limit your creativity and prevent you from exploring new ways to achieve what you want. You might miss opportunities to innovate and find new solutions by relying solely on a checklist.

So, what can you do to achieve your goals and intentions more effectively? Here are some practical tips that go beyond just making a checklist:

  • Set clear goals/intentions: Instead of just writing vague statements, get clear. For example, instead of "run more," try "run 3 miles every other day." Or break it down. For example, instead of "increase awareness of my business," try "Post 3 IG Reels this week."

  • Create a plan that's flexible and adaptable: Anticipate roadblocks and be ready to adjust your plan if needed. Don't be too rigid in your approach.

  • Find accountability partners: Share your goals with a friend, family member, or coach who can help keep you on track and hold you accountable.

  • Be mindful and reflective: Take time to reflect on your progress and adjust your habits and behaviors accordingly. It's essential to be self-aware and honest.

There is no doubt about it: a checklist is a useful tool, but it's not enough on its own. You need to be strategic, flexible, and creative to achieve your goals and intentions. By combining different techniques and strategies, you can set yourself up for success and feel more fulfilled and accomplished at the end of the day. Now, go out there and crush it!

Here's to you,

Melissa Mittelstaedt

Money Coach | Accredited Financial Counselor®


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