Find Time to … if Not Love … at Least "Friend" Your Lists

Finding time to use lists wisely and well can be challenging.  In large part, I think that’s because we allow our lists to become our masters, rather than vice versa.

How many of you have To Do Lists that are more depressing and guilt-provoking than useful to you?  I bet if you were sitting with me right now, you’d be vigorously nodding “Yes!”

That’s why I was so pleased to read David Allen’s article last week titled “Why ‘List’ is a Dirty Word.”  It was featured in his Productive Living e-zine, as well as on his GTD Blog.  In this article he zeroes in on some of the biggest problems with lists, and offers some very practical tips for addressing them.  What’s challenging about lists?

1) They’re hard work and/or 2) They’re scary and/or 3) They’re disappointing.

That’s how David sums it up, and I agree.  The paradox of lists is that:

  • In order to be truly useful (and reduce the stress of having to remember scattered-but-necessary tasks) they must be detailed and inclusive.
  • But, creating and working off of your “detailed and inclusive” list is going to be endlessly overwhelming.

So, what can you do to make the most out of your lists without letting them overwhelm you? I believe that multiple lists is the way to go.  The trick is to not make it too complicated for yourself.  At a minimum, you need to have:

  • One all-inclusive list (this relieves the stress of needing to remember details) and
  • A second list that you use for TODAY.    This lets you focus, feel successful, and reduces overwhelm.

One of our mottos at Finding Time is “Make the invisible visible.” This is a great way to think about your lists.

Use your inclusive list to make all of your tasks visible, but then think of this list as a filing system for yourself.

Then, each day, clear your desk and your mind.  Bring out your second list, which lets you see just what you need to focus on NOW.  You’ll just overwhelm yourself (and decrease your effectiveness) by keeping too much visible at once.

Are you inspired to find time and increase your effectiveness? I invite you to explore Secrets of Heart-Based Time Management – my chapter in the book I co-authored – Stepping Stones to Success!

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Let’s explore time together …

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