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Checklists reduce mental fumbling

Few will heed the following advice - until you have an experience like mine. Our Explorer Scout Post backpacked into a high mountain lake to camp and fish. After we unpacked, our leader, Mr. Phillips, offered some suggestions on how to fish, and casually commented, "I hope you all have your fishing licenses."
   While the other boys were nodding and muttering "Sure, of course", I froze abruptly, halfway through tying a hook on.
   Mr. Phillips noted my reaction and asked, "Something wrong?"
   My face turned crimson as I muttered, "I forgot."
   Mr. Phillips reminded me that he had reminded us at several meetings, and since I had no license, I'd have to be content just watching others.
   Now I know you're thinking that, what the heck, we were many miles back in the mountains and Mr. Phillips ought to let me fish anyway.
   It might seem logical to let me fish without a license, except that Mr. Phillips was a state game warden, and had explained many times the importance of obeying all hunting and fishing regulations. Although it was a bitter lesson, it was a lesson I learned well.
   At home I began working up master checklists, in a large notebook. On one page I listed all fishing items I owned - each rod, each reel, spare spools, line, swivels, lures, flies, etc. The hunting page listed each firearm, the different types of ammo, binoculars, knives, and so on. A camping page had sleeping bags, tents, cooking gear, and all that other stuff. I had separate pages for boating, canoeing, cross-country skiing, birding, hiking, backpacking, car travel, airline travel, and other things I commonly did.
   Items used during most activities - such as maps and binoculars - were listed on every page.
   When preparing for a trip, I'd thoughtfully go over the appropriate master lists, and write out a list of things needed on that particular trip.
   Eventually everything went into my computer, so master-list keeping and trip-list making became much simpler.
   My checklists have several sections - stuff to do well ahead (service car), things to buy (new fishing line), and things to get on the way out of town (ice for the cooler).
   When packing, I check off items only as I actually load them in the rig. Check off an item as you lay it on the kitchen table and that's where it's apt to be when you need it tomorrow.
   When I became the leader of an Explorer Scout Post myself, I worked up checklists, which I handed out to each kid, and which contained all must-take items. Nobody forgot fishing licenses.
   I once took one of my scouts on a moose hunt to Alaska. Without my lists he would have forgotten several critical items. There are no stores in the bush.
   Yes, making and following lists is a nuisance, and as I said at the beginning, few will heed this advice. However, one day you'll find yourself many miles from a store when you remember you forgot the matches, or toilet paper, or some other critical item. Since I began using checklists many years ago, I haven't forgotten a thing.