New Phone Number: 208-461-9193

Download the Healthy School Facility Handbook


The Power of Checklists for Building Habits

“We are creatures of habit" ― Edgar Rice Burroughs

While it’s been said that fish “discover” water last due to their total immersion in it, it’s helpful for people to understand the sea of routines or habits in which they’re immersed, so they can begin to transform them.


Per Charles Duhigg in his seminal work, The Power of Habit, scripts of our daily routines reside in the basal ganglia of the brain where habit “circuits” form with or without our conscious awareness.


MIT researchers discovered each habit consists of a three-part loop:


1.        Cue

2.        Routine

3.        Reward


Changing the loop enables changing the habit. A simple example illustrates.


A person may maintain an exercise habit by employing the:


1.        Cue - Placing workout clothes, shoes, and hydration bottle by the door.

2.        Routine - Running or walking for 45 minutes.

3.        Reward - Enjoying the endorphin rush, the peaceful feeling that results from a workout, and a cup of favorite herb tea.

To change this existing habit, he/she might keep the cue and reward, and change the routine (say substituting weightlifting for running).

“Excellence is not an act, but a habit” ― Aristotle


The best way to enable excellence in facility health is by first transforming key habits, aka, Keystone Habits, per Duhigg.


Keystone habits create a domino or chain reaction of positive benefits, and have three traits:


1.        They constitute small wins or victories

2.        They inspire other habits

3.        They energize us.



Per the International Journal for Quality in Health Care, checklists are “important tools to condense large quantities of knowledge in a concise fashion, reduce the frequency of errors of omission, create reliable and reproducible evaluations and improve quality standards and use of best practices.” They should also “encompass checkpoints of major importance, while still providing … [people] with the freedom to use their own judgment.” (Ref. 1)


Facility checklists may include topics such as :

Physical & Fiscal Health Factors

Indoor Air Quality

Chemical Exposure

Water Quality

Sound Levels

Cleaning and Disinfecting

Sanitizing and Foodservice

Integrated Pest Management

Body Matters

Physical & Fiscal Area Factors

HVAC and Ceilings





Drinking Fountains

Cafeteria, Foodservice



Meanwhile, check out the success story of the B-17 bomber in WW2 based on the

use of a simple pilot’s checklist, from the book, The Checklist Manifesto, by

medical doctor and surgeon, Atul Gawande.

Download A Guide to Changing Habits.



1.        Development of medical checklists for improved quality of patient care, International Journal for Quality in Health Care, 2008