The Waiting Checklist

What are you waiting for?

No, seriously. Do you know?

Sure, there are times we wait for time to pass. You wait for your planned vacation, you wait for the bus. I don’t mean those. I mean the times you wait for other people to do stuff.

We wait for other people all the time. That report that I need, that decision I want my boss to make.

The trick is to know when you can wait and when there’s still work – or at least some thinking – to be done on your side. Here’s a handy checklist that’ll help you wait more efficiently.

1. Define the Deliverable – Do you know what you are waiting for?

Be as specific as you need to be here. For simple requests, this is probably going to be one sentence. For a more complex assignment or delegated project – you may need a written list of requirements or more.

Can you explain what you need in simple and clear terms? You’ll need that clarity when you communicate your request. When in doubt, try to write it down.

2. Pick the Person Responsible – Do you know who you are waiting for?

Who exactly are you asking to complete the task?

If there’s a decision you’re waiting for, who is going to be doing the deciding? Is there more than one person?

3. Pick a date for your next action – How long are you going to wait?

Just set a date.

Always set a date.

It helps to think of this as the date for your next action, rather than the last possible date to get the deliverable aka deadline. That way your date can function as a trigger, giving you enough time to react if needed.

This is also where you write it down. David Allen’s Getting Things Done method recommends keeping a “Waiting for” list that you check regularly. You can also make a note in your calendar.

All this – the deadline and writing it down – makes sure the task gets back on your radar when you need to act on it.

4. Define Plan B – What will you do when time runs out?

Often this will just be “remind them about the request”, and that’s fine.

Sometimes you’ll need a more proactive response, though.

Are you going to reassign the task to a different person? Change the requirements?

You can also treat the missed deadline as a trigger. Do you need to renegotiate a project deadline with a client or stakeholder?

This, too, is something you’ll want to write down. Otherwise you’ll end up making this decision twice. And the whole point here is to decide on the next action in advance.


If your usual Plan B is:

Sigh, guess I’ll just have to do it myself

you may need to work on your Plan B crafting and delegation skills. More on this in a future post.

5. Communicate expectations

At a minimum, you want to make sure the person you’re waiting for knows that you are. Soft signals such as “We should do this and that” will not cut it. So make any request as explicit as you can. 

A clear request includes:

  • what needs to get done, along with any requirements you’ve defined;
  • a clear deadline.

I find it’s best to always put this in the form of a question: Can you do this for me by Friday?

This way you either get a clear “Yes” as confirmation or an opportunity to negotiate the deadline and scope.

Especially with peers, you’ll likely save yourself a lot of headaches if you don’t assume silence or a quiet “mhm” means you’ll get your deliverable on time. Get a “yes”!

6. Sit back & wait

And that’s it. If you’ve done all of the above, you can now sit back, relax, and finally – wait.

Give the checklist a try and let me know if you found it helpful. I’d love to keep a running count of hours saved by this simple tool – so do reach out if it saves you some!

Resources and tools

Below you’ll find the checklist as a printable PDF.

The Waiting Checklist, printable version

Prefer to save trees and use a digital tool? Here’s a handy Nozbe template:

The Waiting Checklist

Nozbe is a fantastic task management app I use. Give it a try!

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