Regular readers of this website have seen that the idea of lists in various forms comes up over and over again. I make “lists” of the stuff I need to do, lists for the grocery store, lists of home and auto maintenance tasks, and so on. I haven’t even mentioned many of the things that I use lists for, either.
So why do I use lists so much? They provide a lot of benefits in my life.
First, they save me time. Rather than standing around and wondering what I need to do next, I just grab the list and do the next item on it. I don’t worry about whether or not I need to clean the windows or change the furnace filter, I just check the list. That way, I can save my actual thinking for other things.
Second, they save me money. Making shopping lists keeps me on focus in the store and minimizes the unnecessary purchases that I might make. If I trust in that list and know that it tells me everything I need, it becomes much easier to buy only the stuff on the list and keep everything else out of the shopping cart.
Third, they help me organize my thoughts and ideas and plans. I constantly make lists to organize all of the thoughts floating around in my head, transforming them from idle thoughts into organized structures that I can move forward on. Rather than just thinking idly about something I’d like to do, I lay out the details in the form of a list, put them in a reasonable order, and then look at what I can do to get the first item done, much like my 101 goals in 1001 days list. I do the same thing when making a decision – I list the pros and cons and use them to help me make up my mind, as I did a while back when thinking about becoming a stay at home dad.
Needless to say, I’m addicted to lists, but it wasn’t always that way. It took a lot of effort to effectively integrate lists into my life. Here’s how I did it.
First, I made the tools for making a list incredibly handy in my life. Not only did I start carrying a notebook and pen in my pocket everywhere, I started keeping a notepad and pen on the fridge to write down a grocery list, a giant whiteboard to jot down household tasks, and so on.
Next, I started putting effort into piecing out complex plans on paper. Rather than just sitting around mulling things over, I just started jotting down each thought as it floated into my head. I usually don’t use any sort of order at first – I just let the ideas flow, then spend time organizing them later. This works incredibly well for me. Lately, I’ve been using Microsoft OneNote (when at my own computer) and Google Notebook (when on the road) for this task, as it’s easy to write down little pieces of information and then easily move them around, edit them, and organize them how I want.
Then, I started creating lists of things to do routinely. For example, I have a list of tasks I want to accomplish each day, from brushing my teeth and shaving to reading three books to my son. I found that works very well for this. Sciral Consistency lets you make very easy checklists of tasks you want to complete every day or every few days, like watering the plants every three to five days, etc.
At this point, I naturally began to deeply trust my lists, and I began to practice what amounted to Getting Things Done.
Just try it! Try keeping a list in your pocket and use it to write down anything that you’ll need to remember later, and then look it over daily. Also, try getting a notepad with a magnetic backing and put it on your fridge – and tie a pen to it so you can write things down without hesitation. Those two things will start you down the path of using lists in your life – and you’ll come to find that they’re incredibly efficient time and money savers.