Let Your Lists Sweat the Details While You Do What You Love!

ListsLists are so powerful when it comes to tracking tasks, remembering important details and, ultimately, finding time for what matters most.

In today’s world, with information instantaneously available and news and e-mail and social networking in play 24/7 it is easy to fall into overwhelm.  Our days are awash with so many details, so many loose ends to tie up … and what that leads to is so much potential for things to fall through the cracks!

So that’s why I’ve come to rely on lists more and more.  For me it tends to be paper lists that I fall back on.  My VA shuns paper and swears by on-line options like Remember the Milk, Google Calendar, and Evernote.

But those are just the containers for our lists.  How we use those ‘containers’ – what we actually write on our lists – offers lots and lots of material to explore.  What kinds of things do you include on your lists?

For the most part, I think of lists as  a way to free my mind for other things.  Adding an item to a list means I can let it go (at least for right now).  The list also offers opportunities for clarifying my priorities – and maybe for delegating something like a grocery shopping list.

With fall chores in full swing and the holiday season approaching, lists and templates have been very much on my mind.  And that’s why I was so interested to read an article by Ben Schott in Real Simple titled “10 Ways to Rethink Your Lists.”

It’s a literate and playful look at list-making – taking examples from literature and history and offering them as list-making possibilities for our modern age!

Some of the suggestions are very funny and might even seem frivolous. Yet they call us to expand our thinking about lists, and within most of the tips are embedded small gems of practical wisdom. For example, here’s his #9:

9. Reconsider the vertical. Given that few of us think in rigid sequence, why do we inevitably start lists at the upper left-hand corner of a piece of paper and continue down in a neat, linear cascade? Varying the format can make a list far more useful. Start in the center of a page and write items in spatial relation to one another, so that you create clouds of related tasks; draw a Venn diagram for party invitees so you can note how people will interact. During the 18th century, sailors in the British navy would sign petitions of grievance in a circle so that ringleaders could not be identified. (From this, the term “round robin” is derived.)

And I especially like #6 with its excellent, practical advice:

6. Think small. When examining a daunting to-do list of your own, there’s no shame in tackling your most achievable tasks first. As Virginia Woolf declared, “Let us not take it for granted that life exists more fully in what is commonly thought big than in what is commonly thought small.”

Whatever details you need to keep track of in your life, I suggest that you consider using lists to hold them, rather than trying to retain them in your mind.

And while you’re at it … consider starting one of the creative lists that Ron Schott suggests.  Se where it takes you.  (And drop me a line, I’d love to hear what you come up with – we all would!)

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