Whenever I notice that I need to do something routinely which has a bunch of steps based on certain conditions, I turn to creating a checklist. Having a checklist helps me immensely. If you follow a checklist you can avoid mistakes and complete the work quickly. Take for instance doing taxes. If I did not have a checklist, I am certain to miss something or the other and then will have to file a revised tax form. Of course when there are new entries in the tax form, or if your incomes have changed, I update the checklist. I have similar checklists for making backups of my media (photos, music, movies etc), laptop (code, libraries etc) and even for investing.
A checklist can be as simple or complex you want it to be. It could just be a bunch of steps that you need to follow without thinking much, or it could be that each step needs a lot of thought and decisions. Here is one example of how part of my tax checklist looks like
- Make a copy of this README file from previous tax year
- Make a copy of Income spreadsheet from previous tax year
- Login to child bank account and fill the Bank Interest - Child tab in Income spreadsheet
- Login to personal bank account and fill the following tabs in Income spreadsheet
- Bank Interest - Mine
- Google Pay (cashbacks and deposits)
- Download credit card transactions and fill the following tabs in Income spreadsheet
- Amazon Pay
- Make a copy of ESOP spreadsheet from the previous tax year
- If you sold any ESOPs in the previous financial year, then update both tabs in ESOP file
- Get capital gains statement from CAMS
I will not bore you any further, but I have another 70 or so more steps (and a lot more sub steps) explaining what information to collect and which tax schedule to fill and how. This makes my life easy when doing taxes. I won’t forget to report all sources of income, even things as small as GPay or credit card cashbacks. I don’t have to think too hard when entering information into the schedules. For example I have the following steps when filling in schedule CG (for reporting capital gains) online
- In Schedule CG select the following
- 111A (equity short term)
- 112A (equity long term)
- From sale of assets other than all the above listed items
- Click continue button
- Open equity share 111A section
- Click Add Details button
- Check section 111A checkbox and enter the following
- a(ii): use value of A 2 1 a from future.re-ynd (check FY is correct)
- b i: use value of A 2 1 b i from future.re-ynd
- Click Add button
- Open from sale of assets other than all the above listed items
- Click Add Details button
- Enable checkbox Short - Term Capital Gain and enter the following details
- a(ii): use value of A 5 a ii from future.re-ynd
- b i: use value of A 5 b i from future.re-ynd
- Enable checkbox Long - Term Capital Gain and enter the following details
- a(ii): use value of B 9 a ii from future.re-ynd
- b i: use value of B 9 b i from future.re-ynd
- Click Add button
- Click Confirm button
It continues further, but you get the idea.
I have a similar but much much simpler checklist for doing backup of my laptop data and my media files such as personal photos, music etc
# clean up files in laptop ~/bin/clean_up.sh # NOTE! From local machine backup laptop stuff to media drive $ sudo rsync -aShEWlHx --no-compress --delete --info=name,progress,stats / \ root@IP:/media/usb/.backup/chandan/laptop/ 2> /tmp/backup.err; cat /tmp/backup.err # NOTE! From media center PC # Run the following and make sure all the 4 disks are listed blkid | grep sd # Run this and make sure "backup" logical volume is visible LVM_SYSTEM_DIR="/tmp" vgscan # Next activate the volume and make sure it is "active" LVM_SYSTEM_DIR="/tmp" vgchange -ay # Mount the lvm partition mkdir -p /media/backup mount /dev/backup/backup /media/backup # Do the actual backup cp -r ~/bin /media/usb/Other/kodi\ backup/bin_`date +%F.%H.%M.%S` cp -r ~/workspace /media/usb/Other/kodi\ backup/workspace_`date +%F.%H.%M.%S` rsync -aShEWlH --no-compress --delete --info=name,progress,stats \ /media/usb/ /media/backup/ 2> /tmp/backup.err; cat /tmp/backup.err # Unmount the drives umount /media/backup # Deactivate volume LVM_SYSTEM_DIR="/tmp" vgchange -an
I do my backup on every Saturday. This helped me immensely when my media center PC hard drive failed and I lost all my media. Thankfully, since I have a backup, I could restore everything from my backup drives. I may have lost some data during the week between backups, but it is nothing compared to the total loss of media. Of course I do backup my photos on Google photos at reduced resolution and quality. I also backup my code to Bitbucket.
Finally, another example of a checklist which is neither as long as the tax checklist nor as simple as the backup checklist is the investment checklist. The checklist while short, requires me to do a lot of thinking and making sense of data. The checklist is mostly a bunch of conditional statements like if Nifty 50 PE > X then go for asset allocation of Y and such things.
So everyday I go through the checklist quickly and decide whether to do anything about my portfolio. If there is some buy and sell trigger, I take the necessary action, otherwise I move on to other things in life :). Usually these buy/sell triggers are bunched up and I have to actively take a call everyday for a few days, followed by a very long no action days.
So I suggest you too make a checklist for any repeating task and reduce the burden on your brain because all you need to do most of the time is just blindly follow the checklist. Once in a while the checklist might need an update, for example if the tax forms change etc, but generally it saves a lot of your time. If you are still not convinced, I suggest that you read the book “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande. I read it a very long time ago. I might need to reread it again sometime soon.