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Checklists vs Workflows: How to Break Down Tasks for Optimal Efficiency

Checklists and workflows are often used interchangeably, but they have distinct differences that can impact the efficiency and productivity of your projects. Both methods share the principle of decomposition – breaking down a large job into smaller, manageable subtasks. Additionally, each subtask can be handled by different individuals or teams. In this blog post, we explore the key differences between checklists and workflows and how to use them effectively in various workflow management systems.

Checklists: The Flexibility of Simultaneous Task Assignment

A checklist is a simple tool that allows you to list out all the subtasks required to complete a larger task. The primary advantage of a checklist is that the sequence in which the subtasks are completed does not matter. This flexibility allows different team members to work on various tasks simultaneously, which can be advantageous when managing projects that have no strict order of completion.

Workflows: The Importance of Sequential Steps

Workflows are excellent for creating transparent, repeatable processes. They ensure that whether you run dozens or hundreds of instances of the same business process, you achieve consistent results each time. By emphasizing sequential subtasks, workflows guarantee that tasks are executed in the correct order, which is vital for businesses with strict dependencies.

Moreover, workflows help team members focus on their specific responsibilities without being distracted by irrelevant aspects of the job. This clarity not only maintains consistency and quality control but also enhances efficiency, as each team member can concentrate on their designated role within the process. In summary, workflows provide a clear roadmap for achieving predictable outcomes while streamlining team performance.

Workflow Management Systems: Implementing Checklists and Workflows

Different workflow management systems handle checklists and workflows in unique ways. For instance, Process Street and Tallyfy use checklists as the default entity. When a new workflow is launched, tasks are assigned simultaneously unless you configure the workflow blueprint to introduce dependencies.

Pneumatic, however, focuses on sequential workflows where each step can include a checklist. This approach allows tasks that can be completed simultaneously to be grouped into one step as checklist items.

Evolving Workflows: A Smart Design Strategy

When designing workflows, it’s essential to be flexible and adaptive. Starting with a checklist can help you identify the tasks that need to be completed. As you observe the project’s progress, you may find that some tasks can’t be tackled until others are finished. This observation will inform you which tasks need to be separated into sequential steps and which can remain as checklist items.


Understanding the differences between checklists and workflows is crucial for efficient project management. Checklists provide the flexibility to work on tasks simultaneously, while workflows ensure a structured sequence of steps. By evolving your workflows and using the appropriate tools in Pneumatic, you can optimize your team’s productivity and successfully complete projects on time.