Making an Effective List

Sure you can write something down, but then do you ever look at it again? Does one big list help you accomplish what you want to do?

Here’s how I make my lists work as a tool for planning and time management:

  • I create one master list for a project on my computer, making it easy to edit.  What I like about an electronic list is that it provides a place for me to quickly get out all my thoughts and then rearrange and change them later. I may print it out and cross some things off, but then it is back to the computer to update it.
  • I give the list some context with sub-headings. For example, for a renovation project I may have sections like To Call or To Research. Giving context with verbs also helps make the list actionable!
  • I break down the list into smaller more manageable tasks. This is an important part of any “big” project and makes it much more achievable. I know I’m making progress one step at a time.
  • I include some deadlines for the tasks.
  • For specific to-do’s, I put them on my schedule so they actually get done.
  • And finally, I look at my list often!

This list approach works well for me, which shouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve read Is There an Organizing Gene? I grew up seeing my Mom making and using lists all the time. Mom’s lists tended to be neatly written in black ink on pages of paper with much detail. Now that I think of it, my Dad was a list-maker too. He opted for the short-but-effective sticky note approach.

Making and using a list can be a key strategy to stay organized, but there isn’t one approach that works for everyone. The important part is to find what works for you.