I cannot imagine ever living or working without a list, or if I am honest, lists. I might maintain a few at any one time. They help me enormously. I use them to provide structure to my day, week, month, year, and even longer. They help me live my life and organise my home, and they are central in the delivery of projects and business management. I recommended them. They aren’t without their pitfalls. There are mistakes to be made. Here, I’d like to share my tricks and tips so you too can use them to greatest effect.
Lists provide a framework for thinking and planning, they help me organise my thoughts and ideas. Then they turn all of that effort into actual things to do, in an orderly fashion. Lists also serve as a reminder of things to do – which is an unremarkable statement. But lives are busy and memories are short (and getting shorter). It is easy to be distracted and diverted by other things and then lose the plot of the day. And that is a key point. You need to be in charge of your day, not anyone or anything else. Your list is your strategy, your aim and purpose, and your action plan. Crises happen, people need you, fires need putting out. Don’t be afraid to adapt your list. But use and protect it. You and your list are a team!
A list is your best friend. It can highlight your achievements (and those of others) and signpost causes for celebration. This is essential in these fast-paced lives we live, when pausing to reflect and value what we have done can be overlooked. I find it immensely gratifying to review a list and see how much has been crossed off during, and at the end of, the day. I admit to adding things that weren’t on the list, and instantly crossing them off. So satisfying. I enjoy that moment when tomorrow’s list starts. I am not afraid to admit it.
Lists also record what has been done or said – that is very useful for jogging the memory and providing a record of the past, whether that be yesterday or last month. It helps with my wellbeing, especially when my recollections let me down, to be able to review what happened and when. To confirm I did actually do something. It stops me doing things twice. Which has occurred once in a while.
And like any good friend, a list holds me to account if things haven’t been done on my list. They can reveal all sorts of secrets and behaviour traits. What’s been left, avoided or ignored. Why might that be? What am I afraid of? That is the pleasure and the pain of reviewing and reflecting on a list. And something to share with one’s therapist.
What are my other top tips?
- I like a proper hardback notebook and a pen. That’s what works for me. I carry it around with me. It is always at arm’s length. I literally (pun intended) have hundreds of them in my archive spanning two decades.
- Notebooks have the advantage of keeping things together. I used to write things down on pieces of paper. They would get everywhere and I would always be searching for the right scrap. It didn’t work.
- I list in chronological order. I have a daily list, on a page in the book. I find that easy to navigate if alongside a diary. I can usually find anything I need, no more searching in vain for that elusive piece of paper.
- A big list is also a good idea. These are the more strategic, longer term, weekly or monthly things that need to be done. They should not appear on a daily list, until the time is right, because they simply will not get done and that not only wastes time putting them on the list, it promotes a sense of failure and disappointment.
- A golden rule is if something appears on a daily list three times without being done, then it either is unnecessary or needs to be done right away, or delegated. Then it is gone – one way or the other.
- Finally, a good list is one that is achievable. One that is completed in the allotted time. If you are constantly finding unachieved items on your list, you’re being too ambitious. Have a shorter list, save some things for tomorrow. Ignore that old adage about putting things off that could be done today. I am all for getting things done, but there are limits.