Adriana’s bedtime checklist

Over the weekend, I attended a house re-warming party for some friends who had their home remodeled. The updates were impressive, but I was struck by something incredibly simple in the hall bathroom, taped to the tile on the wall: their daughter’s bedtime checklist.

The list includes both hygiene/personal grooming tasks like brushing her hair and putting on lotion and educational tasks like reviewing homework and reading. As a non-parent, it seemed like overkill. At first. But then I thought about habits and routines and how, even when you get in a rhythm, over time, some tasks mysteriously “fall off” the routine.

For example, my bedtime skincare routine used to include applying a toner to my face with a cotton ball after showering. I say “used to” not because I gave it up on purpose, but because I just stopped using it for seemingly no reason at all. It’s still sitting on my counter right next to my moisturizer, so it’s not like I’ve been forgetting to retrieve it from a drawer or a cabinet.

Maybe the toner step fell off my bedtime routine because I don’t have a checklist taped to my mirror.

Maybe I should make one.

After all, I’m a big fan of checklists. In Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto, Gawande (a surgeon, among other things) shares the ways in which a checklist simplifies complex tasks with amazing, life-saving results in hospital settings and beyond. Also great reads: Gawande’s New Yorker article–a precursor to his book, and Peter Pronovost’s Safe Patients, Smart Hospitals (Pronovost is credited with bringing checklists to the ER and ICU at Johns Hopkins Hospital).

I think what this checklist business boils down to is an admission and acceptance of the fact that we are human and we forget things. Even simple things like the tonics we put on our faces before bed. Even the things we’ve been doing successfully for months or even years–the things we do on autopilot–need a little maintenance work sometimes. We get distracted. We learn new things and need to free up space in our brains.

So let’s give ourselves a break and make some checklists! And for the love of all that is holy, PUT IN YOUR RETAINER!

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