I first really learned the value of using a checklist back when I was taking flying lessons. Virtually everything you do is guided by a checklist, and for good reason: it ensures you don’t miss any steps. Why would you miss a step, if you are doing the same thing again and again and again? For the very reason that you do the same thing again and again and again and if you are thrown out of your routine, things can fall apart rapidly.
This was all brought to mind this morning when I woke bleary-eyed from four hours of sleep and decided I needed some early morning caffeine in the form of Red Bull1. I hadn’t put any additional cans of Red Bull in the fridge last night so the only cold can would be the one that I packed in my lunch. That wasn’t really a problem. I’d just swap out the cold can for a room temperature one and by 10:30am (when I normally have my can of Red Bull) it would be nice and cool.
I opened the fridge and pulled out my lunch bag2 and reached in for the can of Red Bull.
You know those moments of complete surprise? Like when you take a swig from an opaque glass thinking there is beer in it when in fact it is milk? Well, I reached into the bag–which I’d supposed had been in the fridge for close to 12 hours now–and pulled out a warm3 can of Red Bull. My first thought was that the fridge was broken and I opened the door and felt around to make sure it felt cold inside. Even more disconcerting was that when I reached into my lunch bag to feel the can of Cherry Dr. Pepper that was next to the Red Bull, I discovered to my horror that it was ice cold.
Kelly must have seen the expression on my face for she calmly explained the unexplainable to me:
“You left it out last night.”
“The Red Bull?” I said.
“Your entire lunch. You left it on the counter.” And before I could ask how it was that the Cherry Dr. Pepper was cold, she added, “I swapped in a cold soda for you when I put your lunch in the fridge just now4.”
I’ve been packing my lunch virtually every day since the first of the year5 and I’ve never left it out on the counter overnight–until now. Of course, having thought about it, I realized that my routine last night was way off of what it normally was. Rather than focusing on one task, I seemed to be doing three or four at once and because I don’t use a checklist when preparing lunches and other tasks in the evening, I clearly went off the page.
And I can’t stand Red Bull when it is room temperature, so I was a little bit grouchy until I got into the office this morning.