It’s a new year and the first thing I did today was start a new list to get me going and to keep me organized…
In my opinion, you cannot have too many lists. They keep you on track and make sure you focus on the important items in your life, so they don’t get side-tracked by the urgent that pops into your day or the mundane things you don’t enjoy doing.
I have been making lists all of my life – sometimes driving my family crazy. So I consider myself an expert list-manager – most of the time.
There are various ways to create lists and to manage them. Here are a few that have worked for me:
- Always have a pile of scrap paper handy and write your lists down as soon as they come to mind. That way you have captured the task in a visible format and can let your mind continue on to the other important things on your day. Because it is on scrap paper, you just throw it out once the tasks are completed. That’s the theory anyway. (The photo in this blog shows that doesn’t always work for me.)
- Use a whiteboard for your lists. That way as soon as you have completed the task you can remove it. Whiteboards come in all sizes and shapes from simple magnets for your fridge to boardroom size. Some are even decorative so you can feel that your “work” makes your place look nicer. When my children were young, one wall of our kitchen was a large whiteboard divided into sections and updated weekly: meals; everyone’s activities; grocery list; daily/weekly To-Do’s – as assigned to each person; and important dates. I still have a similar but smaller version in the kitchen – but now it for just “me”.
- Spreadsheets work great for managing the longer-term lists – the things you need to remember but they won’t make it onto your today list. You can assign a date when they went on the list, and a date when you want them off the list. Deadlines are important for these types of lists or they can linger there for months/years. The biggest disadvantage that spreadsheets have is that the computer never seems to be available right when you think of something. (So they get put on my scrap-paper lists with the intention of transferring them later.)
- To-Do notebooks are another great way to collect lists. This is evident by the large number found in stationery stores – some that look pretty and some that inspire with quotes and/or photos. But any simple lined notebook will do. If you use this method, it is important to keep the notebook handy at all times and also to go back and cross-off the items you have done. You need to reorganize the lists occasionally to move un-done items forward. Your notebook will serve to demonstrate just how much you really accomplish in your weeks/months.
- One of my favorite and simplest methods to keep track of what I need to do “today” is the sticky note. Many years ago, I learned that you can really only hope to accomplish about 3-6 really important things in a day. So you use one sticky note per day and write down the 3-6 things that you want to get done today. At the end of the day, you check them off. If anything remains, write it on the next sticky note and throw out the today note. The throwing out gives you a terrific sense of accomplishment. The small size of the note keeps you from getting carried away with a huge list that you will never have the time to execute anyway.
One of the items on my To-Do list this week is to go through my crazy pile of scrap-paper To-Do lists from 2012 and see what I need to carry over to 2013. The pile in the photo looks daunting. However I know that the activity will give me a sense of “accomplishment” for 2012 because most of the items on the list did get done. I just forgot to add the words “throw this out when done” at the bottom of each ;o)
Some of the items that did not get “finished” were maybe not as important as I thought they were when I wrote them down. Or maybe their time just wasn’t now – maybe some other day in 2013 or 2014 or…
So whatever method works for you – and you might want to use a combination of all of them like I do – I think lists help you stay organized and ensure that you focus on the important and essential things in your life. The urgent and the mundane have a way of sorting themselves out anyway.
I like my lists because I find they release some of the stress in my life and let me focus on what is really important to me, my business and/or my family.
Wishing you a Happy List Year for 2013!
Do you use lists? Share what you use lists for in your life. Tell us what your preferred method is. How do you keep them up-to-date and/or dispose of them?