Check it Out

Marianne Delorey discusses the importance of checklists.
Marianne Delorey, Ph.D.

By Marianne Delorey, Ph.D.

“We are by nature flawed and inconstant creatures. We can’t even keep from snacking between meals. Discipline is something we have to work at.”   –Atul Gawande

Atul Gawande’s “The Checklist Manifesto” is a great read for the New Year. Gawande is a surgeon by training, and yet he is arguably more well known for his ability to reach outside of medicine and connect people with the stories from his practice and his life. In “The Checklist Manifesto,” he explains that even the smartest surgeons, pilots, and other highly-skilled professionals need to follow checklists to make sure they don’t forget basic steps in their processes that ultimately end up having a huge impact on their outcomes.

When I first read this article many years ago, I came to the revelation that if these very smart people can keep themselves organized with a checklist, maybe I should try it, too. I did. And it works. I have mini checklists for what to remember for certain situations and I have checklists that keep me focused weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly.

Before I read this article, I thought I was disorganized. I did alright, but this checklist really gave me a way to prove to myself I wasn’t as disorganized as I thought. 

This past year, I tried checklists in a different way. I decided to write down and check off any books that I read with the goal of reading at least one book per month. When June came around and I had already read 12 books, I was shocked. I realized that I was reading more than I thought, but I hadn’t been keeping track. Now that I am using another checklist – and thus a way to measure my goals  – I am even more on top of where I want to be.

I recommend all older adults use checklists to keep them organized and to help out family members who need to step in during emergencies. Here are some suggested components for people to consider when they develop a system that works for them. Your list may include items for pets, other family members, and car maintenance. Don’t forget to add steps toward your goals!

House/apartment maintenance

√ Regular cleaning schedule

√ Deep cleaning schedule 

√ Change air filters

√ Battery replacement (smoke detectors, CO detectors, thermostats)

√ Clean gutters, winterize

Computer/phone maintenance

√ Run virus checker/review system health

√ Delete old emails/texts

√ Organize photos

√ Back up files

File maintenance

√ Review and cull files as appropriate

Fiscal Health

√ Review all accounts, change passwords

√ Review beneficiaries

√ Make sure insurance is still appropriate

Health maintenance

√ Review medication list

√ Make current medical records available for emergencies

√ Update emergency information

Before you set your resolutions, review your checklists from this past year and see where you need to focus some organization. You may find that you are on top of your game. If so, kick back and enjoy 2024! If not, I will be plugging along right beside you. I will be:

√ Checking on my goals

√ Checking out the results

√ Checking up on my progress

√ And checking off each step until I meet my target


Marianne Delorey, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of Colony Retirement Homes. She can be reached at 508-755-0444 or and



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