Preparation: Checklist Chaos

Darin & Natalie Moss have recently started a 100 day trip to New Zealand, Australia, and points beyond. Travel has always been a major enjoyment of their lives, but seeing the world in work-permitted two-week segments had some significant limitations. After much contemplation and planning, their career break is here and with it, the goal of restoring a much needed balance between life, family, and work. You can follow their journey on their website The Next Journey and on Twitter @tnjdotcom

Before their departure, Darin described the endless checklists that seemed to takeover every stage of their planning.

“I’m in Checklist Chaos… Where’s the Exit, Please?”

“I can’t wait to board the plane… I can’t wait to board the plane…”

As planning for the big trip continues, it’s turning into a mantra that I continue to recite to myself as I once again fold the lined 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper in half, in half again, and one final fold to get the result to a manageable size. As I tuck it away, this sheet joins its brothers and sisters as just one of a stack of several pieces of paper all quarter folded now in my front right pocket. This small stack of paper has become the source for most of my brain power when I am not at work…

What’s on these carefully folded sheets of paper? Checklists. Pages and pages of checklists.

When we finally made the decision to go on this trip, the realities of our new situation finally began to sink in. We would be gone for 100 days. 14+ weeks. Over 3 months.

My brain took over immediately and it really didn’t stop until I had spit out over half a dozen pages of neat little boxes. Next to every square was the “needed to be completed” task at its side, each one begging for the checkmark that would signify completion and a release from the panic that a set of uncompleted tasks can bring to the Type-A Project Manager type of person that I am.

One page is titled, “Things to Pack”.
One page is titled, “Things I Want to Do on the Trip”.
One is titled, “Things That Must Get Done While We’re Gone”.
And the list of pages just grew and grew.

In short order, my brain had begun to operate in overdrive – identifying, documenting, and attempting to wrap itself around every possible thing that needed to be accomplished before, during, and immediately after the trip in one excruciating chaotic pass.

I couldn’t believe some of the things that had ended up on my lists: (Some actual entries)

– Adjust for Daylight Savings on Battery Powered Clocks Before We Leave
– Develop Christmas Shopping Approach for Family with Limited Window to Purchase Gifts
– Identify TV Shows to Watch in the Fall Season to Remote Program the DVR While We’re Gone

After the initial checklist brain dump was mostly finished, it was astonishing to see what had actually been written on these lists, or more humbling, what my brain had determined was “important” in this process.

It was eye opening and a little scary at the same time. Seriously, who is going to be looking at the clocks in the house or watching new episodes of House while we were gone? And what in the world is a “Christmas shopping approach”?

After a couple Tylenol and a nap, the checklists were pared down and a good number of “the brain thought this was important, but it really isn’t” tasks were banished to a place that would never see the light of day again.

There is still a lot to do on the lists. One thing is certain — I hope that with the start of this trip, I can find the little switch that can turn my extremely overactive brain off for a little while, or if that can’t happen, that I can be reminded through this experience about what the truly important is, and learn that it is possible to just let the rest go.

Your Turn: When you look at your own checklists and “Things to Do”, what are the things that are truly important? What needs to be pared down? Tell us about one truly important thing on your list and one item that really wouldn’t destroy the world if it didn’t get done today. You might even be surprised by your own response!

Career Break Guide Table of Contents

Meet Plan Go