Calling Time-Out

A Good Start

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Pilots do it. Astronauts do it. Surgeons do it. Taking a two-minute timeout to run through a checklist before undertaking a critical endeavor is a proven way to minimize errors, including life or death ones. It’s why the Joint Commission instituted a universal protocol for preventing wrong site, wrong procedure, wrong person surgery in 2003. In the OR this one, simple process has reduced surgical complications and mortality by 30 percent. Talk about two very well-spent minutes.

So why wouldn’t the rest of us want the gains to be gotten from a simple two-minute time-out before launching into the critical missions of our own days?  Without a game plan it’s so easy to go through our days losing sight of what matters most to us, what we’re here to do and what we really do not want to do. It’s so easy to lose contact with our intention to be mindful, to check our thoughts, to respond not react, to be compassionate and gentle with ourselves and others, and to not take extra bites of ice cream out of the carton while dishing it up. By the end of the day we’re left wondering what happened to that person we wanted to be.

On the flip side, how easy would it be to develop a personal declaration-of-intention checklist? How easy would it be to each morning take a tiny two-minute time-out to connect with how we want approach our day? I gave it a try and drafted an all-systems-go checklist of my own which I’ve been experimenting with over the past week. This approach has definitely had more impact on how often I’m able to act on or call up my intentions throughout the day compared to my other practice which now seems to lack some critical heft. I think the difference has to do with how grounded this time-out checklist is, how very in-your-body-and-life specific it is. if you’re interested in drafting one yourself, I created a template as a starting point if it would help. Time-Out-Template.pdf

Intrigued by the Genius of the Checklist?

To find out more about the extraordinary impact time-outs and checklists have had in a whole host of contexts including disaster response, government, law, investment banking, construction and businesses and endeavors of all kinds, check out Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, by Atul Gawande, celebrated surgeon, writer and public health researcher.

To good starts and well-executed intentions,