The self-assessment questionnaires in Tables 1 and 2 will help you determine the best format and configuration for your family's checklists. Have each family member complete both questionnaires. Keep in mind that, in the end, each person will be able to have her own individual checklist that suits her personal style.
Table 1.  Handwritten or Typewritten?
1. If you are handed a page with both typed text and handwritten text, which text do you read first?
  1. Typed text

  2. Handwritten text

2. When someone sends you a thank-you note, which do you prefer receiving?
  1. A printed thank-you card

  2. A handwritten note

3. Do you hesitate to write changes or questions on a printed document?
  1. Yes

  2. No


Table 2.  Indicating a “To Do” Is Done
If you had your choice, which of the following methods would you use to indicate you had completed an item on a checklist?
• Check it off.
• Cross it out/draw a line through it.
• Delete it from the list.
• Highlight it.

As you create your checklists, you can make preliminary assignments of tasks to individual family members based on each person's age and other obligations.

You'll determine where you keep your lists and how you use them based on the formatting option you select. Generally, you'll keep the checklists near your family's planner, although as your family becomes more accustomed to using the schedule, some members will take full responsibility for the location and use of their own checklists.

If you answered more a's than b's, try using typewritten lists. Conversely, if you answered more b's than a's, try using handwritten lists, even if they are photocopies.

The questionnaire in Table 1 will help each person decide whether she responds better to words that are typewritten or words that are handwritten. You'll find that by using the kind of printing that carries the most weight in the user's mind, you'll help her to focus on the message being conveyed by the list—that is, what needs to be done. The added focus may be just the boost she needs to actually do the job.

Next, you need to find an efficient way to present your checklists over and over again. After all, you'll need 365 daily checklists, 52 weekly checklists, and 12 monthly checklists a year. Of course, several options are available, each with its own set of plusses and minuses. The following sections discuss these options in more detail.

Things You'll Need 

  • Paper

  • Pen/pencil

  • Computer (optional)

  • Printer or photocopy machine

  • Highlighters (optional)

Using Paper Checklists

Paper checklists can be used only once. But you can design a daily checklist with enough check boxes to last a week if you've chosen to check things off rather than to cross them out or highlight them, as shown in Figure 1. In a similar manner, you can place a month's worth of weekly checklists on a single page. If you've chosen to use typewritten lists, you can make a master list on your computer and then print off clean copies—modified to include new assignments, if appropriate—as you need them. If your family responds better to handwriting, you can save the time of writing a new list every time you need a fresh copy by making one original and then photocopying it. (The photocopied handwriting will have almost the same force in the user's mind as an original handwritten piece.)

Figure 1. This daily checklist will last your family an entire week. You can use a checklist like this one with either typewritten or handwritten text. The column that assigns the task to a particular person is optional.


Some people think that an advantage paper lists have over all of the other list media is that they can keep them to refer back to if they ever want to see what and how their family was doing at any particular time. However, you're making these checklists for only the most routine of tasks—basically chores—so the odds of your ever wanting or needing to look back are slim. Even if you're a family-chronicle fanatic, keeping one blank copy of each form should satisfy your yen to preserve your family's history.

Your ability to make multiple copies of your blank checklists quickly and easily becomes even more important if your family prefers crossing off or highlighting the tasks as they're done. With those methods, if you're using paper checklists, you have no choice but to have a separate list for each day, for each week, and for each month.

Things You'll Need 
  • Paper

  • Pen/pencil

  • Computer (optional)

  • Printer (optional)

  • Laminating material

  • Dry-erase highlighter (optional)


If your family is color-oriented, you can give each person a different color pen to check off, cross off, or highlight his accomplishments.

Using Laminated Checklists

Laminated checklists are another hard-copy option. You can take a master copy of your checklist and either laminate it yourself or have it laminated at your local photocopy store. Then, using dry-erase markers, you can check off or cross out each item as you do it. At the end of the day, week, or month, as the case may be, you can wipe the list clean and start all over again using the same list. A new erasable highlighter on the market can be used on a laminated list, but the amount of highlighting material to clean off will make this alternative rather messy. If you're going to write in who is responsible for each task and you're going to rotate among your family members, then remember to leave the assignment blank on the master copy and fill in the names on top of the laminate where they can be wiped off and changed.


Marks made with the acid-free Duck Brand Dry-Lighter Highlighter can be completely erased. Suggested retail: $5.99 for a three-pack.

Remember, those names will be handwritten, so if most people in your family respond better to their names if they're typewritten, then this option will not be ideal.

Things You'll Need 
  • Pen/pencil and 3×5-inch index cards, or Computer, Printer, and Microperforated sheets of 3×5-inch cards

  • A large magnetic surface

  • Small magnets

  • A file card box

  • File card dividers

Using 3×5 Cards


You can create your own printed 3-by-5 index cards on your computer using Avery Dennison's Laser & Ink Jet Index Cards (product #5388). They come in packs of 50 sheets with 3 cards per sheet together with templates for popular software programs. Suggested retail: $22.45.

Cards are the best alternative for you if you want a hard-copy checklist where you delete the task after you've completed it. You'll put just one to do item on each card. Then you can assemble the checklist by posting all of the relevant cards. A good system for this method that won't wear out is hanging 3- by 5-inch cards with the tasks onto a large magnetic surface; the refrigerator is a traditional choice.

Of course, you can write on 3×5 index cards. If, however, you want typewriting on your cards, you can get microperforated sheets of 3×5 cards that you can print on your computer. Because the cards are reusable, you'll find that the amount of time and effort to set up the system is worth the results. As each task is completed, you can remove the card and place it back into a file box or other holder so it's available to use again the next time you create a list.


Oxford 3×5 manila Blank Index Card Guides come in packs of 100. Suggested retail: $5.95.

Because you'll have cards for each day of the week and cards for each month of the year, a good way to keep the cards that aren't posted currently is to use an index card file box with dividers labeled with the names of the days and months. You can make your own set using blank dividers.


If you want to add color-coding to your handwritten card system, you can use different color cards to indicate which person is assigned the job, how often the job needs to be done, or what day of the week the job should be done.

Things You'll Need 
  • A desktop computer or a PDA

Using Digital Lists

A list on your desktop computer will allow you to use any method to indicate task completion. The easiest way to create a computer list that you can check off is to use the checklist option for outlines in your word processor. Or, if you don't have that option, you can simply type check marks in front of the items on your list. You can cross items out by using the strikethrough style in your word processor. You can highlight text either by using a highlight option or by changing the text color of the entry. And, of course, you can select a line of text and delete it if you want to remove the completed task.

PDA checklists will work as long as you prefer checking off or deleting completed items. In Figure 2, the choice has been made to check off tasks as they're finished, whereas in Figure 3 the choice has been made to hide the finished items. Either way, the complete list can be retrieved, so you can use it over again without having to re-create it.

Figure 2. You can easily create a checklist on a PDA.

Figure 3. You can change the settings on your PDA to do list so that you see only the items that you still have to complete.

Comparing List Types

Table 3 gives you a quick reference guide to see which checklist formats will work with your family's preferences.

Table 3. Formatting Options for Checklists
 Cross OutCheck OffHighlightDelete
HandwrittenSingle-use paper Laminated sheetSingle-use paper Laminated sheetSingle-use paper Laminated sheetCards
Typewritten hard copySingle-use paper Laminated sheetSingle-use paper Laminated sheetSingle-use paper Laminated sheetCards
Typewritten electronicDesktopDesktop PDADesktopDesktop PDA

Things You'll Need 
  • The time-specific lists you created earlier in this chapter

  • Your family's planner

Integrating Your Checklists with Your Planner

Now you're ready to finalize your checklists and integrate them into your planner.

No matter which form of checklist your family has chosen, you should include all of the following information on each checklist:

  • A description of the task

  • Your time estimate for the task

  • The name of the person responsible for completing the task

  • A check box (only if you've chosen the check-off method)

You'll find that your monthly checklists are easier to use if you put the tasks in chronological order, as shown in Figure 4, because the next step is to schedule enough time each day on your planner to complete the tasks listed for that day.

Figure 4. The tasks on this monthly checklist have been arranged chronologically to make it easier to see how much time needs to be blocked off on the family planner each day.

This process gives you another opportunity to fine-tune your time-specific lists:

  • If a task is listed as a daily item but doesn't happen on a particular day, then you won't schedule time for it on that day. An example would be going through the mail, which you need to do daily, except on Sundays because there's no mail delivery.

  • If something seems to be missing or you notice that something is never getting done, you can use that as an indicator that you should look back and check whether you've listed it to be done at a good frequency—or whether you've listed it at all.

  • If you discover that some of your time estimates are unrealistic—either too short or too long—adjust them to reflect reality. Encourage everyone to continue to try to reduce the time each task takes by becoming more efficient and proficient at it.

  • Your family can decide to change the frequencies of tasks and who's assigned to do them whenever you agree that a change is appropriate.

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