I love lists. All kinds of lists. Better yet--lists titled with a number. Best of the '90s, top 10s, 5 easy dinners...if you slap a number on it, I will read it. It's only expected, then, that I am also a maker of lists (although mine don't always get a number in the title). Grocery lists. Packing lists. Resolutions. To-do lists for work. To-do lists for home. To-do lists for "eventually." To-do lists for events, parties, showers, and the like.
Why am I so obsessed with lists? Despite my youth, I have a horrible memory when it comes to what people say in meetings and I am socially predisposed to laziness (which has its time and place).
But seriously: First of all, it helps keep me on task. With a list in front of me, I'm less likely to wander off and do something completely unproductive--I'm more likely to skip around the list doing lots of little productive things. Secondly, there's just that feeling of satisfaction when you cross items off the list. And finally, that ultimate feeling of accomplishment when you throw the list away because it's all done.
Over the years, I've developed my own technique for making lists, both at home and at work.
These involve a pen, a $1 magnetic notepads from Michael's (the long narrow kind), and a highlighter.
- Decide what time period the list is for. Is it just a daily list, a weekend list, or a week-long list? Sometimes, for a particularly busy week, I will make a list for each day and staple them together.
- Write down the items, using action verbs. Be specific.
- Highlight the one (at most two) main items on each list that must be completed that day. Be realistic (a lot of things can wait).
- Check things off!
I keep my work lists in a notebook, so I can look back at previous weeks, see what I've accomplished, and see what needs to be carried over into the next week. I use a highlighter for this as well (sometimes two or three), a regular pen, and a brightly colored pen (not black or blue).
- Decide what time period you're making the list for. I recommend weekly (you don't want to waste your time making lists, do you?)
- Write down the tasks you need to tackle and plan to tackle that week. If it's not due for two more weeks and you're already swamped, leave it off (perhaps write it down somewhere so you can pick it back up when it's relevant).
- Organize your items by program (if applicable) or major project. Split those into manageable tasks.
- Write down any deadline dates that need to be met (even if they're not during that week, if you plan on tackling it that week) in colored pen next to the item.
- Highlight the items that absolutely need to be done that week.
- Check stuff off as you work! In the workplace, things often get sent off for approval without actually being "done." I've decided to use arrows to note the items I've completed and sent off for approval, leaving the check mark for when all edits are done and approval is granted.
My technique might not work for you...heck, lists in general might not work for you...but if you're looking for an efficient list technique, you're certainly welcome to try this one.
What is your list-making technique?