Give Your Projects a Final Polish With a Standard Checklist


731545_check_it_2Soon after I clicked the “Publish” button on my blog dashboard, I realized I had made a mistake.

I’d read my post through three times before hitting that button, but somehow missed adding a crucial word — the word “don’t”. Inadvertently, I had told my readers that they “have to sacrifice too much to lessen their cost of living,” . Furthermore, two of the hyperlinks I had added were broken.

I am a sloppy self?editor, mostly because I am forgetful. I realized it was time to create a standard checklist to remind myself of all the steps I have to take before clicking “Publish”.

Since creating this checklist, I’ve made fewer mistakes and I haven’t had another “oops” moment. I created a similar list for my fiction, too. Anyone who does creative work should have a similar checklist to ensure that their projects are polished before submitting them.

Why Have a Standard Checklist?

Apart from remembering the small yet essential steps to finishing one’s work, there are other reasons why a standard checklist can be useful:

  • Smoother workflow. Since all the steps to a polished project can be seen in a single page, you spend less time asking yourself “Is there anything I’m forgetting?” Once you’ve checked each item on the list, you can look at your project one more time and feel confident enough to send it.
  • Objectivity. Ideal list items should be objective enough for you to check off each one without much thought; it’s hard to measure items like “Make the design pop” or “Write compelling copy”. Opt for quantifiable points, such as “Test design/copy with 10 different users and make sure that at least 8 take the preferred action”.
  • Consistency. A standard checklist for major projects allows you to deliver a consistent output. Plus, it becomes a handy reference when you’re subcontracting work.

It helps to look at the project checklists of other knowledge workers for inspiration, so you might want to look at the following examples:

Making My Own List

For my blogging projects, I spent half an hour listing the important things I had to do before publishing a post. Some of the items I included were as follows:

  • Print the article and read it. Spot all spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes.
  • Make the necessary corrections on the soft-copy.
  • Read the revision backwards, sentence by sentence to check for overlooked mistakes.
  • Add post tags.
  • Use correct HTML for punctuation.
  • Preview the post, click each hyperlink and make sure they work correctly.

To make the list reflect how I work, I also noted the gaps and weaknesses in my process for the last three posts I wrote. While I added an odd item from time to time, I had to remind myself that the goal was not to create a longer list. The goal is to make sure that each article I deliver is as clear, concise and as polished as it can be.

Which brings me to my final point: Know the reason why your checklist exists. By having a clear objective, you’ll know whether your list works or not. It’s supposed to streamline your process, rather than adding another step to an already saturated workflow.

Do you have a project checklist that you use before handing finished work to clients?

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John Bartell

Yep, I use up all my brain power writing an article, and I don’t have much energy left to think of all the checks I need to do before I publish. Having a checklist keeps the thinking to a minimum after the article is written. I just have to create and use one.

Matt Baier

This post really hit home. I find that I typically pour so much effort into the hard part (writing the blog) that I tend to overlook the easy parts (things like adding tags.)

Sarah Bray

Yep. How many times have I done that? (Answer: More than I will admit here thankyouverymuch.) Thanks for the great resources! I am such a spaz when it comes to putting out professional-grade stuff, so when I make a ridiculous mistake, it’s doubly irksome.

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