In my previous article, we discussed how checklists have dramatically improved outcomes in areas as diverse as air travel safety and reducing hospital infections and considered how they might also improve decision-making when it comes to Fantasy Premier League (FPL). In particular, I suggested that they might help compensate for our imperfect memories, mitigate our tendency towards overconfidence and help control our impulses.
This week, I’ll be expanding on the topic to address the question of what makes a good decision checklist, how best to use one and, finally, I’ll share the checklist that I’ll be using this season to help steer my transfer decisions.
And, no, I don’t have anything better to do. Nor do you. So let’s begin.
What Makes a Good Decision Checklist
What will make a good checklist will vary depending on the context. If you’re dealing with something particularly complex, such as a shuttle launch, the checklist might necessarily be quite long.
A good decision checklist, however, will always be as short as possible and only feature important items. The longer a checklist is, the longer it will take to complete and the more likely it will not be used or not be used properly.
Focusing only on what is most important is also vital as this allows you to afford your time to areas where it will be most significantly spent. In addition, if a checklist has too many items, it might go too far in narrowing the options available.
In summary, a good decision checklist is detailed enough to be useful, but judicious with its items, allowing it to be completed easily and be efficient in its scope.
How to Use a Checklist
Now that we’ve established that bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to checklists, we should also acknowledge that it’s how you use them that really counts.
The point of a decision checklist is that it introduces consistency and rigour to the decision process and, as a result, it helps control some of the more negative effects of our cognitive biases. The value of checklists, however, is not necessarily measured by how rigidly or dogmatically their items are followed.
Context is always important and each item should always be considered in relation to where you are in your FPL season at that particular moment. For example, your checklist items might effectively rule out a particular player but, perhaps, this player has a double gameweek or maybe you are about to Wildcard after this Gameweek, meaning you only need the player for one week as a punt.
These and other factors can influence whether the items of your checklist are appropriate for that moment and, while it is important to take them relatively seriously if you want them to work, they are there to guide your decisions, not to dictate them.
Finally, a checklist does not need to be written in stone but, ideally, should evolve and be perfected over time. If it needs additional items, or items to be removed to be effective, go ahead and add or subtract them.
My Transfer Decision Checklist
Because I like to ‘eat my own dog food’ (not literally) I’ve drafted a checklist that I’ll be running all my transfer decisions past this season. Generally, I’m using this after I’ve identified a player I might want as a means of either deciding between multiple options or as a final sense-check before I push the transfer button.
Currently, I use a traffic light system marking each item as Green = Good, Yellow = Caution, Red = Bad based on how well the player fits that particular item. If my checklist is all or mostly green, I’ll go ahead with the transfer. If it’s significantly yellow or red, I’ll either look at other options or any contextual factors that might mitigate them.
Here’s the checklist:
- Are they nailed on?
- Are their next six fixtures favourable?
- If I had to, would I be happy to hold them for the whole season?
- Do they negatively impact my team’s flexibility?
- Do they play for a good team?
- Are they heavily involved for their team (e.g. the ‘talisman’ and/or on set pieces)?
- Do they actually improve my team over the player I’m transferring out?
- Are there bigger issues to solve first?
- Can I make this transfer later in the week?
- Could I bank this transfer instead?
Now, I stress, this checklist is not an exhaustive list of the factors I look at when picking a player, I still look at underlying statistics, eye test and all the other things we might use when making decisions and these could, indeed, be checklist items themselves. For me, however, my checklist reflects the principles which, when I stick to them, tend to correlate with me doing better in FPL. Ideally your own checklist will be similarly tailored based on your own experiences.
The added benefit of personalising your decision checklist is that, if it really doesn’t work, you will at least have empirical evidence that your preferred strategy might not be ideal. That doesn’t sound like much of a consolation but, in the long run, it could be an extremely valuable insight, and one that you can only gain through consistency in your style of play.
Finally, checklists need not only be for transfer decisions. They might be used for captaincy decision criteria or deciding when to Wildcard or to play other chips or all sorts of FPL-related decisions you might want to introduce more accountability for.
A good decision checklist is short but substantial. Too long, and they may be overly restrictive and will probably put you off investing your time in completing them. But, they should include the items that you consider important to your decision process.
Good use of a checklist does not necessarily require dogmatic adherence to its items and the current context will always be important to consider. Checklists are there to make you stop and think and their true value comes from the consistency with which they are used.
Finally, the best checklists will reflect your own experience of the game and the challenges you have faced. We all have our individual strengths and weaknesses and decision checklists not only give us cause to consider what those might be, but they also give us a means of taking account and consistently addressing them whenever we make an FPL decision.