Few things make us feel more productive than checking a task off a to-do list. That little rush of satisfaction you get when you’ve completed something helps launch you into the next task with a pep in your step.
A workflow checklist is a more dynamic and detailed version of a to-do list. With it, you can break down every part of a project into manageable steps. Whether you work for yourself or manage a large team, a workflow checklist can help you juggle all of a project’s moving parts and help you produce high-quality work every time. Let’s explore five strategies to consider as you create a workflow checklist.
1. Map Out Your Goals
Workflow checklists can help you and your team manage time wisely, make fewer mistakes, and produce consistently high-quality work. They play an essential role in every industry, from construction to marketing to hospitality and beyond.
If you’re not sure where you’re going, it’s hard to map out how to get there. So, before you start putting together a workflow checklist, we recommend taking the time to think about all of your end goals.
Maybe you’re the content manager for a marketing agency. You’d want to make sure your writers produce top-quality pieces every time. Your workflow checklist’s goal is to make sure your team works together to produce content your clients will love.
Or, perhaps, you run a restaurant and feel like you’re living in constant chaos. Your goal? To make the process of taking, filling, and delivering a customer’s order so smooth that it becomes automatic and error-free.
It’s okay if you have more than one end goal. We think that’s pretty common. Take our fictional chaotic restaurant, for example. In addition to creating a workflow checklist for processing orders, the team might need checklists to help meet additional goals, such as:
- Recruiting and hiring staff
- Ordering ingredients from suppliers
- Creating and approving new menu items
- Shift duties like cleaning the kitchen, dining areas, and bathrooms
A content agency might need multiple checklists, too—one for producing email newsletters, one for web pages, and one for blog post production, for example. Outlining your workflow goals can help you visualize how many checklists you’ll need to make.
2. Choose a Helpful Tool
If you adore your old-fashioned planner and notebooks, you can use them to make a workflow checklist. But papers can get lost or damaged, leaving you with no backups. If you work with a team of two or more, you’ll need to make copies of your workflow checklist, use Wite-Out to cover up and rewrite changes, and hold meetings to inform your team of every update or modification.
Workflow checklists should save time, not take up more of it.
That’s why we recommend finding workflow management software that fits your or your team’s needs. Luckily for you, there’s an ocean of software services to choose from.
Workflow Checklist Software for Smaller Teams
Small teams, freelancers, and people who need something for personal organization can benefit from a low-cost tool like Trello or Notion, both of which offer impressive free-forever plans.
Trello’s free plan offers a helpful Kanban board interface for breaking down projects into tasks and statuses, plus templates to help you get started quickly on common tasks. You can also tap into automations and integrations without paying anything, so we recommend Trello for teams of two to five.
For freelancers and personal use, we love Notion. This workflow management tool helps you organize every detail into whatever view you like best and it’s wonderfully intuitive, which makes it the perfect marriage of simplicity and sophistication.
Making a simple workflow checklist with Notion is a breeze. List items to do, then each time you check a box next to an item, the text fades and a line strikes the words out. You can also embed links to other pages within your Notion workspace to help you juggle work happening on other platforms.
Workflow Checklist Software for Larger Teams
There are dozens of advanced workflow management programs to choose from. These tools can take a little bit of time to learn, but once you and the whole team feel comfortable with the software, you’ll be accomplishing tasks with ease.
The Workflow Builder in Asana’s platform lets you create a project and assign multiple subtasks out to multiple team members—all in a visually pleasing and intuitive interface.
Despite its impressive project management capabilities, Asana is easy on your wallet. You won’t get the Workflow Builder with its forever free plan, but the middle-tier plan includes this tool.
Monday is another excellent option for teams with a complex ecosystem of clients, managers, projects, due dates, and tasks. You and your team can create a custom workflow system for each project and re-use previous workflow checklists as needed.
3. Build Out Your Workflow Processes
When you have a good tool in hand, it’s time to start writing out your workflow processes. Add all the steps you can think of into the platform’s checklist, Kanban board, or however else you want to organize your workflow.
If you were part of a small team producing blogs for a sunglasses brand, for example, your checklist might look something like this, with items or tasks important to the workflow listed, plus helpful tags for organizing the workflow and a date range:
After you’ve written out all the steps you’ll need to accomplish a task, go back and add relevant links, screenshots, and other material helpful to completing the work. If you manage a larger team, you might want to include links to the content guidelines and blog samples to make the process smooth for whoever uses the workflow checklist.
Make any adjustments you find are needed once you start working from your checklist, including adding team members to individual checklist items, dividing tasks into smaller, more manageable steps, or combining steps that you realize don’t need to be separate.
Repeat the process until you’ve got all the checklists or project boards you need for your entire workflow. The software services we’ve mentioned offer plenty of space to create additional lists when you need them and often let you save workflows as templates, so they’re easy to refresh when you need to use them again.
4. Ask for Feedback
This step is especially important if you work with other people. A workflow checklist should help the team work together more seamlessly and not create confusion.
Before you publish the workflow checklists and ask everyone to use them to guide their day-to-day project work, have team members test them out. Adjust the checklists as needed based on the feedback they give you.
We also recommend sending out a survey every quarter to see how well the workflows are working for everyone. The feedback you gain can help you keep your processes relevant as your company grows and evolves.
5. Study Examples of Effective Workflow Checklists
If you’re feeling stuck or want ideas for how to create a workflow checklist, take a look at examples you can find on the internet. In this section, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite workflow checklist examples to help you get a little inspiration.
First up is this sample accounting workflow checklist from Financial Cents.
Those who work in accounting know that workflow checklists are crucial to making sure that you process payroll correctly, document expenses, file taxes, and create budgets.
Having a checklist for each task you do helps you keep track of the minute details without getting overwhelmed—or making costly mistakes.
Next is this sample workflow checklist on Monday which demonstrates how a construction company can keep track of several projects—even when each one comes with multiple subtasks and due dates.
Even though it’s a complex checklist, adding a new project is easy. The checklist framework is already in place.
Finally, a digital checklist like this one from Trail helps restaurant managers keep track of the many processes that allow a restaurant to function. This food safety and health task list helps managers for restaurants, food trucks, bars, and cafés stay compliant with local laws and deliver delicious eats
Since this type of checklist is available on a mobile app, you can slip it in your pocket instead of lugging spiral notebooks around or constantly returning to the office to check off tasks.
You can try the tools that these examples come from or take organizational inspiration from them and apply them to the features of your preferred workflow management software.