I will admit, I rely heavily on lists to keep track of all the little details. Especially since I started pursuing a master’s degree while working full time, I have had to find a way to stay on top of deadlines. The little deadlines can overwhelm you if you are not careful, and lists have become very useful for me. I have lists for schoolwork and work deadlines and tasks, lists for the grocery store, errands and chores, and even a list of my workouts for a wellness program at work.
Is my memory really that bad? Am I too overwhelmed and need to reduce the clutter in my life? (Probably, yes) Or can lists be an effective tool without being too much of a crutch that we lose our power of memory? I like to think that lists are an important tool when used effectively and in the right way. Whether you keep them on paper or electronically, I am sure you have a list somewhere in your life, even if it is simply a ‘bucket’ list.
I am sure many of us have memories of lists that we dread-lists of chores as a child, ‘honey-do’ lists, etc. But I would argue that lists are an important part of one of the most integral steps of any project, task, or business: planning. Planning is a necessary and critical process that can make or break your firm. (Even if that ‘firm’ is your family. Remember the consequences of not completing your chores?)
With lists we are able to:
- Make it real/tangible-Many visionary leaders speak of the power of simply writing down your goals. By taking an idea and putting it down in words, it suddenly becomes a real thing, not simply an idea. If it exists only in your mind, is it real?
- Allow prioritization– Seeing tasks laid out in words can make it easier to prioritize and organize them. It can also make it easier to see dependencies if they exist between tasks.
- Make it attainable– A grand idea can seem daunting, until it is broken down into steps. Once you make a list of the steps needed to reach your goal, it becomes more attainable, just as it becomes more tangible and real.
- Show room for improvement or gaps-A list can give you a different perspective that can allow you to more easily see where there is room for improvement, ways to reduce time, and reduce gaps in the process.
- Feel great about checking things off– How great does it feel to check something off your list and realize you are one step closer to your goal? It is a simple thing, but I can’t tell you how good it feels to check off each task on my list of schoolwork as I approach our graduation deadline! It is a small thing, but it is very satisfying. Don’t discount the simple pleasure of task completion and crossing it off your to-do list!
Do you use lists this much? Do you need to use them more? Making use of lists as an effective planning and organizing tool can help you achieve your goals, both in your personal and professional life. Where do you want to be in 5 years? What are your profit or production goals? How much money are you trying to raise for your cause? Write it down and make a list of the steps that will get you there. Think of how good it is going to feel when you check them off and meet your goal.