Efficiency 101: Embrace The List

This tiny thing is at the root of most of my organizational abilities.  Lists are wonderful things for a number of reasons.

  1. They allow me to empty extraneous stuff out of my head.  Seriously.  There’s limited space in there, so a list of everything I need to get done allows me to free up that space.  I don’t have to waste time trying to remember something I probably forgot anyway.
  2. I get the joy of crossing things off, which is very reinforcing.  So much so that I sometimes add stuff to the list I already did, just so I can cross it off or tick the little check box.  Hey, I’ll take all the reinforcement I can get!
  3. Lists help me keep focused.  There’s never a question of “now what?”  I mean, think about it.  How much time do you spend dithering about, trying to figure out what to do next?  When there’s a list, you eliminate that time waste because you know what you still have to do.

But there’s actual method to my list making.  It’s not just willy nilly jotting things in one after another on a notepad.  Well okay, for groceries and the like, it is.  I use the Shopper app for my iPhone and have a running list for all the places I’m likely to shop (grocery, Walmart, the Asian market, Lowe’s, whatever).  But for actual TASKS I’m quite a bit more detailed.  There’s an app for that (c’mon, you saw that coming).  I actually use Intuition, which was designed for busy moms.  I’m sure there are other organizer apps out there (in fact, I may go check just for fun–actually this ToDo+ looks pretty good…), but either way, whatever you use, whether it’s an app or a day planner or just a steno pad, here are a few list making principles to adhere to.

  • Organize tasks by category so that you can tell at a glance what sorts of things need to be done.  I have categories for errands, chores, work stuff, class stuff, writing, house prep, blog stuff, writing…you get the idea.
  • Take big tasks and break them down into smaller tasks.  This is a really important one.  SOOOOO many people waste time staring at big tasks not knowing where to start or how to approach it.  Breaking things down into smaller segments makes things feel more manageable.  Plus it gives you more stuff to cross off!
  • Organize your list according to importance.  Sometimes this means importance based on actual due date.  Sometimes it means the stuff you just don’t wanna do, that you tend to put off because UGH.  Sometimes it’s stuff you actually DO want to do (:cough: writing :cough:) but put off because it’s hard or…whatever reason.  Do yourself a favor and DO THAT THING FIRST.  It will make the rest of your day/week go smoother because you’re more efficient with everything else when your worst/hardest task is already finished.  Why?  Because you’re no longer dragging your feet.  That’s probably THE BEST THING my mother ever taught me.  She trained me NOT to procrastinate on things (i.e. homework initially) and do them immediately.  It’s something I’ve done my whole life that has served me well.  Thanks, Mom.

9 thoughts on “Efficiency 101: Embrace The List

  1. Cindy

    Yes, yes, and YES!

    Especially the bit about doing the nastiest chore first, it makes me feel SO much better to have “eaten my frog” already. Phew!

    Now, if I could just find a way to make writing more of a priority! I mean, can it go before feeding the kids? Or counting my inventory? *sigh* unfortunately, I need a clear mind without a naggy to-do list to concentrate.

    Sometimes there’s just nothing for it but to be the best I can be.

  2. Oh my goodness, I never thought about putting my lists into categories!! Why does that feel like a :head desk: moment? 🙂 Thanks Kait.

  3. I have been making a weekly “schedule” lately, which really is a list sorted out into different areas (work/house/writing etc.) and into days, and it helps me immensely. Especially with not panicking if I can’t fit “everything” into one day. I’ll just do the most urgent stuff first.

  4. I’m new to listing, but have already slapped myself upside the head a few times for waiting so long to get on the list wagon. And so true about crossing things off the list.

    Last week my wife called to ask me to grab a new tissue box from the closet for her. I totally added that to my list and crossed it off when I did it. What a rush!!!! Now I know how He-Man felt when he was zapped with the power of Greyskull.

  5. So did you tick this off your list 🙂

    Great post Kait…use Post-it lists all the time, compile remaining items onto a new one at the end of every day so that nothing gets lost in a yellow pile. Looking into some better ways to handle it and will be checking out the apps you mentioned.

    Thanks much for the great advice!

  6. Ohh I love to cross things off! That is the reason why I don’t use softwares for that. I want to press my pen on the paper and cross it! Do I sound like a psychopath? Anyway…

    Create several sub tasks is a great idea: more things to cross!

    Do the thing you are avoiding first… it is not fun, but it is so true.

    Thanks for the great post 🙂

  7. As I was reading through this post, I was breathing a huge sigh of relief and saying to myself, oh, I’m glad I’m not the only one! I live by lists, I get lost without my lists, I’ve even done as you said, put things on the list I’ve already done so that I can get the satisfaction of crossing them off. I even have a notebook, the exclusive purpose of which is to write my lists. The hint about the sub-tasks is a good one, I do that a little in my head but not down on paper so much. I might try that from now on. Thanks.

  8. Yay for lists! My brain would explode each day if it wasn’t for lists. Lists of tasks, of goals, of chapters in my wip, of favourite recipes, of knitting projects, of books to read, books to buy, etc. etc. Lists of lists!

  9. I’m really looking forward to these efficiency posts on Mondays now. I especially appreciate the apps suggestions. I really need ways to move out of the efficiency Dark Ages. I love lists but I literally have little pieces of paper falling out of my paper day planner. I’ve made the jump away from paper books, and now I really want to so that in other areas of my life as well. Any apps or programs that help would be appreciated. Thanks, great post!

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