Feeling overwhelmed? You need a checklist.

A checklist could save your life. Here's a not-so-subtle reminder about the value of checklists:

Have you ever found yourself emotionally shutting down in the face of a daunting project list and an overflowing e-mail in-box? I have.

The Air Force calls this Task Saturation and it can manifest itself in many ways. Some people hyper-focus on their email and new-mail alerts to the point where nothing gets done.

David and I made posts on Saturday and Sunday about the UK researcher who found that email distractions can cause a drop in IQ.

Fellow productivity blogger, Bert, from Open Loops, posted an excellent comment about how the military helps its pilots extract themselves from overwhelm before they have to extract themselves from their wreckage:

The Air Force calls this Task Saturation. When one is faced with a large volume of tasks, which is what you might see when you look at your backlogged email in-box, humans can shut down. Some, in an effort to deal with the tasks, begin to compartmentalize and channelize, meaning that they begin to concentrate on their email to the exclusion of all other communication and input that is still coming their way. This is why perfectly good pilots sometimes fly good airplanes right into the ground. In our lives, it means that we will not perform well on other tasks and responsibilities while we are struggling with that in-box.

Excellent illustration.  How does the Air Force help their pilots cope?
The solution? The Air Force provides tools and systems that pilots are supposed to fall back on in times of emergencies when task saturation can immobilize a pilot. They pull out their emergency checklists and start taking actions.


Checklists.  That's the ticket.

Got one?

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