Tasked with reading non-fiction by my daughter’s third grade teacher, last night we cuddled into bed to read one of my favorites from her shelf: Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women. The last time we read it together, I must have skipped the introduction. So, this was the first time I realized that the Apgar scoring system that screens newborns for potential health emergencies immediately following birth was created by a woman: Dr. Virginia Apgar. I was struck by how such a seemingly simple checklist could make such a significant difference in the lives of many children, including my own preemie (now the third grader, thriving and healthy). I’m thrilled that Dr. Apgar was a woman, but what got me thinking was really that a checklist could be considered an invention.
This reminds me of a book I read over my brief summer break from graduate school, recommended by a professor (and later discussed on Stephen Colbert) by Dr. Atul Gawande: The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. In this book, Dr. Gawande suggests that something as innate as communication – in the form of lists – can drastically improve our chances of getting things right in times of crisis. As a busy working mom of two children, I don’t just use lists in times of crisis, I use lists EVERYDAY! The first thing I do when I sit down at my desk each morning is write a list of important tasks for the day. I don’t always get to all of them, but somehow the process of writing them down, and crossing them off as I go, pleases me. It helps me to focus more on the moment, knowing what will come next and what I’ve already accomplished.
When I talk with organizations about using social media, I hear a lot about how overwhelmed they feel already by tasks and endless email inboxes; they say that using social media just isn’t a priority for them. Social media is not a passing fad. Social media has changed the way customers communicate with businesses, requiring increasing transparency; it’s changed the way and speed at which news is delivered; it’s allowed people to develop a sense of community with peers across distances. These changes are here to stay – the world is smaller and more transparent, and a lot more preoccupied with their new iPhones. The thing is: using social media does not necessitate obsessively checking Twitter and Facebook. If done right, it means selecting the platforms that seem appropriate for your organization, deciding how to use them strategically, and then setting a schedule (i.e., making a list). Set aside a time of day, maybe 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon to check-in on your social media accounts, check for mentions, and respond to comments, then let the rest go. Set up your account so that you’re alerted each time your brand is mentioned in social media and trust the system.
After all, there are only 24 hours in a day. Make a list, check it twice, and for heaven’s sake, keep your smartphone away from the dinner table.