I love lists. I really do. Don’t tell my wife because then I’ll get even more lists of things I have to do but I have a real and very serious fetish with lists. The idea of numbers down the side of a page, each corresponding to a thought; something; anything is for me, heaven. I’ve made lists for a long time. I’ve downloaded every app that has ever been made for making lists (I’ve considered making a list of the best ones) and when I got my brand new moleskin, the very first thing that I wrote down was a list. And then another. And another. I might be addicted.
What do I love about lists? Firstly, I love to complete things. Making lists gives you a visual overview of what you want to accomplish and, if you do it right, what you actually get done. Crossing things off, check marks, x’s and ticks are the calling cards of a job well done and when you complete a list, treat yourself.
Secondly, I truly believe that writing down what you want to do can be incredibly helpful, functional and in some cases therapeutic. I didn’t realize how many things I wanted to get done around our home until I made a list of everything I wanted to do. And then added more and more things to that list.
Finally, there are a lot of people who are intrinsically motivated. They don’t need anyone to give them a reason to get things done. But occasionally, even the most internally motivated individual can use a good kick in the butt. This is why I will often publicly post my lists. It’s almost a form of personal shaming. By making my lists common knowledge, I open myself up to the possibility of people asking if I actually got it all done. And I always want to be able to answer yes. It’s a mental exercise. I challenge myself to be better.
So how do you make an effective list? Here’s some of my personal tips.
- Don’t just make a LIST of everything in the world you want to accomplish. Break it down. Work. Home. Personal. Education. Etc. And then break it down further and further. Go client by client and if necessary project by project.
- Your first list doesn’t have to be your final list. If you come up with 10 things and the last 2 are actually the most important, make a new list and order it accordingly.
- Eye Contact. Make your list visible. This is one of my issues with list apps. Unless you set due dates and notifications, you can basically never see that list again. My wife and I bought white board stickers that are on a very busy traffic area in our house. Lists include hers, mine, sobeys, superstore, Costco.
- Always be completing. There’s nothing like marking something as done. So when you’ve got a little bit of time, check your lists. See if there’s something you can tick off. Even if it doesn’t seem like a big thing. Just do something. Put that little X or strikethrough and then smile.
Lists are an effective way to help you manage a life that, if it’s anything like mine, seems busy beyond belief. Sometimes it’s hard to accomplish anything because you’re just trying to contemplate the depth and complexity of it all. Make a list. But don’t check it twice. Always remember the classic office paper/email rule. Don’t touch it more than once unless you’re going to deal with it. Don’t spend all your time looking at your list. Making and maintaining those lists is important but not as important as completing them.
Make a list.
Now complete it.