A List Can Save Your Life

Turns out making a list can do a lot more than just help you remember to pick up milk from the grocery store. When I first started this blog I got a comment on one of my posts from a family friend. She mentioned that having a list actually saved her life. Yep – you heard me right. The act of writing something down reminded her to do something crucial, which prolonged her life. Amazing right!

Checklists and Your Health

The comment was from a woman named Kate — who is a mother of three and a full-time teacher. She’s constantly running here and there between her children, husband, work and personal life. But it was a to-do list that stopped her for a moment and reminded her to make her annual doctor’s appointments.

Because of that list – doctors found a precancerous breast condition. She was able to take precautionary measures to reduce her chances of developing advanced breast cancer later in life. She told me that checking off “make doctor’s appointment” from her to-do list – saved her life. The power of a simple list is amazing — it’s no wonder that doctors use them too.

Checklists in the Operating Room

I’ve mentioned “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande before – it’s one of my favorite books about lists. It’s all about bringing checklists into the operating room to help surgeons remember the simple stuff and save more lives. The results of bringing a short list that gets right to the important stuff are extraordinary. Post-surgical complications like infections dropped dramatically and surgeons across the world are now relying on these checklists…because they work.

A Patient Checklist

As a patient – you have a responsibility in your own health as well. Asking the right questions before undergoing surgery is paramount. Not knowing all of the details of your condition and treatment can be dangerous. The more information you can have – the better. If you’re an aware and active participant in your healthcare you will be able to help doctors better care for you. It’s important to have a checklist of questions to ask before going into surgery. Dr. Christopher Roseberry – a surgeon specializing in minimally-invasive procedures compiled this list of “Questions to Ask Before Surgery” for me.

The power of a list goes on and on when it comes to your health. Lists of foods to avoid if you’re diabetic, hypertensive or suffer from gout will help to improve your quality of life and even help you live longer.

Those are just a few examples but we all live in a world where we’re moving a million miles a minute and if you need a list to remind you to do the small stuff – like make a doctor’s appointment…then so be it. It could just save your life.

4 replies
  1. Dr. Michael John Nuccitelli
    Dr. Michael John Nuccitelli says:

    I definitely agree with List Producer and encourage others to read her blog and become a compulsive list maker as she suggests. As a psychologist, I have recommended to all of my patients the importance and effectiveness of lists. As a forensic psychologist, lists are an invaluable tool when I compile my data for forensic evaluations. As a person recently diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder Inattentive Type, list making has saved my sanity and organized my scattered thoughts. I guess you can say I’m a confirmed Listaholic.


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  1. […] all said the same thing: lists will help you be healthier.  Whether you’re writing down healthful goals or just making grocery lists — the benefits are […]

  2. […] easy to be overwhelmed by your list and ignore it. But the benefits of a to-do list are vast. If you make a well-constructed list it will work to your advantage. Here’s how to make […]

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