Alerts, Checklists, and Lazy Thinking

Developers can be lazy thinkers. Don’t blame them (or me) for this. It’s natural to take mental shortcuts when you get tired, and if you’re spending weeks on complex projects you will get tired.

Alerts and checklists are both great things to have, but there are some common mistakes that quickly turn them into useless background noise for tired brains.


The most important quality of an alert is that it is actionable. There should always be something you need to do when an alert happens, or it shouldn’t be an alert. Ideally it should require an immediate action.

Useful information is not necessarily an alert; maybe log it, or compile it into a daily report, but don’t mix it in with alerts that require action.

Once an alert happens two or three times and no action is needed, it will start being ignored. And worse, other alerts mixed in with it will start being ignored too!


For checklists, minimize the thought needed. Don’t have checklist items that only apply under certain conditions. Each checklist item should always apply, and it should be easy to perform the check.

Once a checklist item is irrelevant two or three times it will start being ignored. And worse, other useful checklist items will start being ignored too!