I’ve written before about how the power of a simple checklist has had a big impact in sectors such as flying planes and surgery. It works for complex tasks by creating a consistent list of checks that the operator needs to go through to avoid missing the simple items, and allowing them to release part of the concentration that would be required to remember every item.

Checklists are also an integral part of the Macdonald’s model. They create brand consistency by ensuring that every beefburger, cheeseburger and Big Mac is prepared in the same way every time and in every restaurant. Making the burger is a pretty simple task, but because it is done so often the checklist is needed to mitigate against the possibility that one customer out of millions receives a bad burger with way too many onions and no pickle and never goes back.

Creating a packing checklist for your day-to-day bag is very similar. It’s a simple task but forgetting something could result in you failing to achieving your daily objectives. If you forget things on a regular enough basis, this would accumulate into not achieving your goals. At the same time, you don’t want to have to prepare for every possible eventuality otherwise you won’t be able to lift your bag. Some prioritisation is needed and this always starts with knowing your objectives.

My objectives for my daily routine are:

  1. To meet my daily health goals (e.g. drinking enough water, going to the gym)
  2. To avoid spending unnecessary money
  3. To avoid producing unnecessary waste
  4. To avoid things that annoy me (like my contact lenses becoming irritated and getting wet in the rain)

What I keep in my bag helps me maintain good habits and the intentions I have for every-day life. You will almost certainly have different ones to me, so think about what your ideal daily routine would include and also what annoys you the most and what you would like to avoid. Make sure that you edit my list to tailor it to your own lifestyle.

Try and keep it as simple as possible. If you have never found the need for a spare pair of socks, don’t put it in! Also try and keep the things that you pack for specific activities to the absolute necessities. Do you really need your noise cancelling headphones every time you go to the gym? Make sure what you are carrying around with you every single day is likely to serve a purpose, and avoid filling your bag with ‘just in case’ items.

I don’t check this list every day either, I just review it once every six months and change out any seasonal items. I also have a rule that my bag doesn’t get filled up with unnecessary things, so anything that gets stuffed in there throughout the day gets removed the same night.

Finally, one last tip is to try to compartmentalise items using smaller bags or sections of your bag. For example my lunch goes into a soft lunchbag and my toiletry items go into a small zipped bag. This helps with items that need to be repacked on a daily basis or when you need to change bags. I use a ruck-sack for my usual days in the office and a smarter handbag for conferences, and I can just pull out the small zipped bag to switch toiletry items between the two.

And here is what is actually in my bag:

1.Backpack 2.Gym clothes 3.Trainers 4.Small zip-back 5.Mirror 6.Hair bobbles and clips 7.Plasters 8.Spork 9.Painkillers 10.Moon cup 11.Vaseline 12.Pen  13.Eye-drops 14.Tissues 15.Shopping bag 16.Hand cream 17.Floss 18.Woolly hat 19.Gloves 20.Sun hat 21.Sun cream 22.Lunch bag 23.Water bottle 24.Purse 25.Keys 26.Phone 27.Keypass 28.Waterproof bag cover 29.Socks 30.Sunglasses 31.Mints 32.Tin of tuna 33.Diary 34.T-shirt 35.Waterproof jacket

Essentials – I always keep these in the same place in my bag, so I’m never rummaging around and it’s really easy to check that I have them before I leave the house.

  • Purse
  • Keys and key-pass
  • Phone

Daily packing – These get packed/re-packed every evening.

  • Lunch
  • Water bottle
  • Gym kit (if it’s a gym day)
    • Trainers
    • Shorts
    • Top
    • Sports bra
    • Towel

Cosmetics and first-aid – These small items are kept together in a little zip-bag (from a flight pack), handy if you have to swap handbags as well.

  • Deodorant – I don’t need to pack this now that I have switched to a bicarbonate-based deodorant.
  • Mirror
  • Hair bobbles and clips
  • Plasters
  • Pain killers – I also keep a couple of throat lozenges packed.
  • Tampons – I don’t use these now, and instead just pack my moon cup.
  • Vaseline
  • Eye-drops – Handy if you get dry-eye from contact lenses.
  • Tissues
  • Hand cream (mini tube from a hotel)
  • Floss (mini travel version)

Seasonal and weather items

  • Water-proof bag cover
  • Spare socks – If you get caught in the rain, no need to spend the whole day in wet socks.
  • Sunglasses
  • Water-proof jacket (summer only – my winter jacket is water-proof)
  • Sun-hat (summer only)
  • Sun-cream (summer only) – I just have a small tube of zinc for when I feel like I’m getting burnt.
  • Spare t-shirt (summer only)
  • Woolly hat (winter only)
  • Gloves (winter only)


  • Pen
  • Daily diary
  • Shopping bag
  • Spork
  • Tin of tuna (my ‘emergency hunger’ food)
  • Mints

Things I don’t put in my bag, but you might consider if you don’t have a regular desk space for example

  • Keep cup – cup, coffee and tea are kept on my desk.
  • Instant coffee
  • Tea
  • Contact lens solution/case
  • Glasses and glasses cleaner – now that my contact lenses are a bit more predictable, I don’t feel the need to carry glasses, contact lens solution and case around, and can rely on eye-drops.