Which camp do you fall into?
Do you tend to swoon at making lists? You love them, they’re a vital part of keeping your sanity and you’d be lost without them?
Or do you avoid them like the plague? You don’t get what the big deal with lists is and you’re certainly not a fan?
Wherever you fall on the list-making continuum, take heart.
There are some real gems below. In fact, I have a three-part formula for your list-making success.
Stand by for tips to help you with ease and efficiency via lists
I come from a long line of list makers. My mother was and to this day, continues to be a keen maker and keeper of lists. She always has several on the go.
My husband’s beloved Grandpa has long departed us but I have sweet memories of a list or three poking out of his shirt pocket, along with a pencil stub. He could build anything and I remember his weathered, gnarled hands gripping said pencil, to add to his lists.
So it may not come as a surprise that I am utterly besotted with lists. I’ve made and kept them my whole life. I still have a distinct memory of a list, made on a bright orange piece of paper, of goals for my future. Said list included becoming a fashion designer and leading a group of young people from the Northern tip of Africa to the Southern tip.
Lists are curators of many things – to-do’s, and dreams included
Damon Zahariades in his book, “To-Do list formula: a stress-free guide to creating to-do lists that work” (one of my top reads from 2021) says a surprising 41% of to-do list items are never completed though.
Making lists is so ingrained in me that I never stopped to think about their purpose.
Damon says the purpose of lists is to get control over your workday. “You’ll know what you need to work on and what can be put on the back burner. A good task management system will make your workday less chaotic. It will help you: meet your deadlines, reveal the day’s top priorities, work on the right tasks at the right time, feel like you’re ahead of the curve, and avoid wasting valuable time putting out fires.”
For both those who love lists and those who couldn’t be bothered with them, check out my list (pun intended) of what to put on your lists, plus what tools you can use for that very task.
Formula part one: Know what kind of information you want to curate with your lists
Here are some examples of my beloved lists
Here are examples of lists I keep for professional use.
- A detailed checklist of all the steps that go into organizing my monthly Learning and Development Roundtable
- Messages – people who I’m waiting for a reply to an email, text etc.
- Tech tools – I adore tech tools so I keep a list of ones I want to try which I then do, one new one once a week.
- IP – I have detailed lists of all of my intellectual property or all my learning activities (surveys, worksheets, videos, etc.)
- Program catalogue – I have a list of sample workshops I’ve designed and taught
- Workshops I’ve taken – all of the training I’ve taken is curated in a list and my learnings are tracked in my “Learning Well” template
- Time – I track my work hours using Toggl. It’s given me massive insight into how I spend my time and has been a real eye-opener and helper.
- SOPs – I’ve worked with a Virtual Assistant for more than a decade and having all of my standard operating procedures written down has been a game changer in terms of being able to effectively delegate tasks.
- Annual projects -I keep a list of all the projects I want to get done each year, then I break those down into what I can accomplish each month and then each week using Trello.
- Learning- it’s one thing to learn something, it’s a totally different thing to remember and use what you learn, so I track my learning on a weekly spreadsheet. I also highlight and make notes in my Ebooks using my Kindle reader (which makes it easy to write my annual list of books I’ve read blog posts).
And here are examples of lists I keep for personal use.
- Movies I’d like to watch
- Grocery list – this one is online and accessible so others in the household can add to it
- Packing lists – I do a lot of traveling and safaris so I have multiple packing lists, including for camping safaris, local travel, and international travel
- What to do, buy, and who to see when I travel – I live away from my passport country so this is an invaluable list
- Trips I’ve taken each year – I’m not great at remembering dates so this is a handy dandy list to look back on to remember where I went when
- Trips I want to take – for example, I’m hoping to get to Benin next year for the annual Voodoo Festival
- Renewal dates – insurance, leases, driver’s license, credit card, and passport expiration dates
- Bucket list – this is a handy place to capture my dreams and wishes
- Gratitude project – last year I initiated a gratitude project so I needed a way to track who I was sending my gratitude cards to
- Inspiration list – I have a lovely folder on my phone of memorable quotes, and memes that are a helpful pick me up when I need it.
Did you get some inspiration for lists you could curate? I hope so.
Having an idea for a list is one part of my three-part formula, the second one is three tips for figuring out your list format. Yes that’s a thing.
Formula part two: Figure out your list format
Figuring out the best format for your lists is something very individual. I suggest asking yourself three questions. Your answers to these questions will influence your list format as well as help you decide which list tools to use.
- Who needs to see your list? In other words, do you need to share it with people or not?
- Are you wanting access to your lists online or offline? That is, do you want them to be accessible on your computer, your phone, etc. or are you more of a paper/pen kind of offline person?
- How do you want to use the data in your lists? Will the data be static or do you need to be able to sort it, check it off, add deadlines, and/or roll up the data?
Formula part three: Figure out your tool(s)
Now that you know what kind of information you’re wanting to curate (part one of the formula) and your list format (part two of the formula), it’s time to move on to part three, the tools you’ll use.
Let your answers to the format questions above guide you in your selection of tools.
Here are ten examples of tools you can use to curate your lists
- Workflowy – a fabulous free tool, you can share lists and roll them up
- Google Sheets – I use an endless number of Google Sheets to curate information, including my Learning and Development Roundtable checklist I mentioned above
- Google Docs – same, I’m a huge fan of Google Docs for curating information
- Folders on your desktop browser – this is a very valuable piece of property that is often overlooked. I have many folders that all contain easy-to-access links, for example, to all my IP.
- Trello – a fabulous, easy tool to curate all kinds of information. I use it with my VA team to track all of our work tasks.
- Plain ol’ pen and paper – for those of you who prefer, don’t underestimate the value of traditional pen and paper. As much as I love tech tools, I use a weekly planner template that’s paper-based that I made to sort out my workweek tasks.
- Toggl – I use this fabulously easy free tool to track my work time
- Kindle – a little used feature in Kindle is using it to track all of the information you highlight and make notes on in the ebooks you read.
- Type if for me – I keep a curated list of boilerplate text (text that I type out frequently) and I simply type out an abbreviation and type it for me expands the text into the desired text.
- 1SE – is a fabulous app where you can add a picture a day to keep a visual reference, like a movie. I used it to track the year I got rid of three things every day.
Now go on and learn, learn some more, and lead
- One of the many things lists are good for is to make sure you don’t forget things. Our brains can forget anything and everything, even knowing how to skip.
- Take things a step further. Scratch to-do lists. What’s on your not-to-do list?