This week I’m expanding on a feature of last week’s Time Management blog. The List! This is a bit of a humorous, personal dig at myself since my life is actually run by the lists I keep. However, there is a serious side and plenty of benefits to be had from keeping lists.
This quote is actually from the ‘About the author’ section of my book Web to Success...
‘She’s a control freak and everyone jokes about the number of lists she keeps in order to organise her life.’
These quotes are from the body of the book – I really went to town on lists...
‘I actually colour code my diary and to-do lists’
‘I have a rolling list in my head’
‘We all have a list of tasks we need to do. If you’re like me, it’s several lists.’
‘Make a list (or as I’ve said several in my case). Plan in order to stay focused. We can’t let ourselves be sucked into other people’s plans as it’ll almost certainly cause our own plans to fail. Anxiety is reduced by the feeling of control. (Well this is me, the control freak, what else was I going to say?)’
‘I’m good at it now, thanks to an overabundance of lists and my natural tendency towards being a control freak.’
‘Not having to do lists means we’ll forget tasks. We can’t forget if they’re on a list.’
‘Apparently, we can only remember seven things at any one time, and I can guarantee we all have more than seven things on our lists.’
‘It’s worth making a list (yes another list) of your rocks and pebbles at least and also some of the sand so that you recognise what stops you from dealing with your rocks.’
‘We can also list out our strengths (Yeah more lists) and make sure to capture absolutely everything that we’re proud of about ourselves. . If our confidence starts to flag, we can pull out the list as a reminder, and it becomes our motivation.’
The Importance of Making Lists - By Bridget Hargraft (synopsis – the full article can be found at the link below)
We can experience high stress, and anxiety levels from procrastination, or disorganization. There is a tool we can use to cure us of our woes – a list. I mean, have you ever tried to go grocery shopping without a list? I have, and let me tell you, there is always something I forget to buy. Not only will a list help you complete tasks, there are health benefits to increase your overall quality of life.
Let’s start with the obvious:
1. Decreased stress levels, increased brainpower: When we use a list, it allows us to control information. When we are overloaded with due dates, it can be hard to keep track, and remember. Writing down tasks allows us to control that information, and reduce the anxiety associated with “all the things I have to remember”. As your life becomes more organized, and less stressed, your ability to focus increases The benefits of being less stressed include a stronger immune system, fewer feelings of depression, better cardiovascular health, and an overall more enjoyable life. Doesn’t that sound fab?
2. Organization. Life becomes a lot easier when we have a system. Making a list of objectives, and planning when they need to be completed makes things a lot easier to complete on time. If you make a list of the general objectives you need to get done, go one step further, and list the steps you will take to complete the tasks. You have a paper due in a week? What days will you research, and write out which sections? This makes it hella easy to beat procrastination.
3. Self-esteem. When your stress level is decreased, and your organization is increased, generally, you complete more things. How good does it feel when you’ve typed the last sentence of a paper? Imagine at the end of the day looking at your list of tasks, and seeing a majority, if not all of your tasks checked off. When you realize how much you have completed within a day, your self-esteem increases. Do I really need to explain the benefits of having good self-esteem?
So, now that you know the benefits of writing down a simple list, what are you going to do?
Go buy an agenda. Do it now, big or small. Just make sure you do it. Write your first list, and stick to it. Write your second list. Then your third, and fourth. See the benefits for yourself!
The importance of list making.
I make lots of lists. I make to-do lists, grocery lists, lists of books I want to read or movies I want to watch, lists of jobs I want to apply for or literary magazines I want to submit to. When I make lists, I don't always stick to them; in fact, it's probably more common that I veer from them than not, but this is just a reflection of life and its various twists and turns. So why write lists if I know they're going to be altered?
For me, the act of making a list is more psychological than practical. When I see everything I want to do or need to accomplish all written down on a single sheet of paper (or possibly more than one), it becomes much more tangible, and the amount of time required to accomplish these tasks becomes easier to grasp.
In addition to visual impact, list-making has a kinesthetic effect as well. I am a firm believer in the power of putting pen to paper, whether that be through taking notes for school, writing thank you notes, or making lists. Studies show not only that handwritten class notes are more easily retained, but also that writing down one's goals, or at least sharing them verbally with someone else, increases the likelihood of achievement of these goals. And just as a handwritten note or card is always seen as more thoughtful than an email or phone call, so too are handwritten lists or goals. Besides, there's nothing more cathartic than placing a check-mark next to an item on a list, or better yet, drawing a line straight through it.
Why writing lists is still relevant and important.
If you are stressed out and feeling overwhelmed in your life, your business or both, it’s likely that one key element is missing. It’s a method that some consider old-school, but it’s extremely important: list-writing.
Most of us understand the usefulness of lists under certain circumstances. We never go to the grocery store without a list. Unfortunately, we often neglect to use lists in the most important areas of our lives. Lists help to keep our lives in order. Lists are point-driven and results-oriented tools that can help you produce the life you desire.
It is a fact that unless there is a system in your mind, your mind will not let go of what needs to be done. Consequently, you’ll feel constant pressure until you develop a system to handle your life’s ever-evolving to-do list.
Writing a list provides you with a system, which helps you to remove pressure and improve your performance in business, work and in life. Listing your life daily will bring about solutions and help you keep an orderly state of mind, so that creativity can abound. I live by lists! This practice is one of my greatest success tools. When you list your life, you lock yourself into a success system that works time and time again.
What can list-writing do for you?
I am convinced that my pen and paper empower me to progress and can do the same for you. Your lists will prevent you from forgetting life’s important things. They will stimulate more progress by helping you to keep a clear vision. They will create an easy way to organize yourself and get more of the right things done, and help you be more effective in coordinating daily activities.
What’s Written Is Real!
There’s a reason that one of my quotes that I get the most feedback about is “What is written is real.” Lists provide clarity and direction, pulling your hopes and dreams into your personal space. I am the author of my own biography and with years of practice I know that if I list it, it will come.
I challenge you to start creating lists today. Choose two or three lists from the ‘starter lists’ below and write down at least ten items for each one. Create a to-do list for tomorrow, and make a commitment to yourself and your future success to write that daily to-do list each night for the next week.
Starter Lists for Life
Your goals for the next 30 days
Your goals for the next year
Your 5-year goals
Tools you need to obtain to be more effective
Your dream vacation spots
People you want to meet
25 things you can do to make more money
5 Advantages of a To-Do List by Ian McKenzie
One of the fundamental tools for time management is that list of things you need to get done. It consolidates all your tasks in one place. From there you can prioritize them and tackle the important ones first.
There are 5 key advantages to maintaining a to-do list:
A to-do list doesn’t forget.
Your brain is not the most efficient memory tool and will only trust systems that it knows works. Good memory recall is as simple as finding those things that will jog your brain at the time it needs to remember. Having a written list helps us remember when things have do be done so we do not miss anything.
A to-do list helps you set priorities
Making a to-do list is an important first step but prioritizing that list ensures that you focus on the most important items rather than giving in to the temptation of working on less important items because they may stand out more or because they are easier to do. Once you have a list of the things you need to complete, set priorities and decide which jobs should be done first.
A to-do list lets you coordinate similar tasks
A to-do list helps us to avoid repetition of labour. For example, if we have to deliver a document at an office and collect a document from another office which is on the same block, both these tasks can be done together. A load of time is lost in the starting, stopping and changing of different levels or types of activity. Save time by performing like tasks together. Make all your outgoing phone calls at the same time; organize your errands into a single run; reply to e-mail; etc. You will find this a more efficient use of your time.
A to-do list tracks your progress
Using a to-do list enables you to mark off the tasks you have completed. At the end of the day, when you look at the list, it will give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. It might also have the effect of waking you up if nothing has been marked completed.
A to-do list makes it easy to carry-over tasks
If anything remains incomplete at the end of the day, it can be carried over to tomorrow’s list. This is an easy way of preparing a to-do list for the next day; by examining the to-do list of today and carrying forward any task that is incomplete.
When we talk about preparing a to-do list, there are a couple of helpful points to remember:
The to-do list should be realistic.
Don’t include more on your list than can be accomplished in a day. Projects that will take weeks or months to complete should be organised and tracked in a different way.
Prepare more than just daily to-do lists.
Regular tasks can occur on a monthly cycle: e.g., paying bills. You can create date-based lists that will remind you to complete task which are regular, but not frequent. A calendar is the easiest place to track such a list.
A to-do list can be as simple or as complex as you need. Write down the tasks that you have to complete, break large tasks into component steps, assign priorities to each item and get to work.
The importance of personal to do lists.
Everyone has their own way to keep up. For me, a simple pen-and-paper list is the most effective way to stay on track with tasks at work. Some other folks I know swear by apps. But whatever the medium for their professional to-do list, it seems like people rarely give the same weight to personal tasks at home. I'm not talking about the stuff you have to do (make bed, empty dishwasher), but the stuff you love to do.
A bucket list is one common example of a "personal" to-do list, where we're more likely to see something spiritually fulfilling like "visit Thailand" than a must-do like "finally re-tile the roof." But why don't more of us document the little things? The small tasks we'd like to get done sometime, just for fun?
I'm calling for a movement. Right now, start a personal to-do list. It'll be like a bucket list, but with much smaller, more easily achievable things you can check off this week or this month. Here are a few ideas:
Read one new book.
Create a piece of art.
Meditate for 10 minutes every day.
Learn to knit.
Take a cooking class.
Discover a new restaurant.
Go to the movies by yourself.
Call an old friend.
You probably already thought of a few things that you've been wanting to do for a while now, and just never found the time. By making a list of your small, individual, non-professional goals, you're making personal fulfilment a priority in your life. And just like at work, keeping a to-do list is a great way to stay accountable.
Here's the thing: You actually need to get it down on paper. Or in an app. Or wherever you like to keep lists.
If you're a traditionalist... use good old pen & paper.
If you want to share or collaborate on to-dos... try Wunderlist or Todoist.
If you're competitive... use Habit RPG.
If you usually need a push... use CARROT.
If your to-dos are repetitive or time sensitive... schedule them as events in your regular calendar.
If you want something really elegant... use Task.
If you want something elegant and packed with features... use Any.do.
If you like everything to sync natively with your Apple gear... try Pocket Lists.
The main thing is to treat your personal task list the same way you would a professional one. Check things off as you finish them. Share your goals on social media. Because we shouldn't lose track of the fun things in life, either.
These are interesting articles…
Word of caution – however important lists are, they are only really useful when you actually use them, schedule in tasks from them, and stay on top of them. If not, then they are just as much use as random words on a piece of paper…… just saying…..
Quotes on lists...
Umberto Eco - "The list is the origin of culture. It's part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order.". "The list doesn't destroy culture; it creates it. Wherever you look in cultural history, you will find lists." "At first, we think that a list is primitive and typical of very early cultures... But, in cultural history, the list has prevailed over and over again. It is by no means merely an expression of primitive cultures."
“I love lists. Always have. When I was 14, I wrote down every dirty word I knew on file cards and placed them in alphabetical order. I have a thing about collections, and a list is a collection with purchase.” ― Adam Savage,
“List, list, O, list!” ― William Shakespeare, in Hamlet
“A list is just a scaffolding for a story. It’s just a way of organizing information. I mean, The Odyssey is 24 chapters. You could call that 24 Chapters About Odysseus. That’s, like, a really great list. Really top notch. Really, really viral. Super viral.” ― Jack Shepherd