We seem to be obsessed with lists – grocery lists, to-do lists, bucket lists, music playlists, vacation packing lists, and more. Anyone who has not made some type of list, in fact, either has an incredible memory or is a really disorganized person. We also love it when others make lists for us. Even blog posts with lists are among the most favorite.
A Memory Tool and a Reward
First, we don’t want to forget things. Even if the items on that list are long-term, such as a bucket list of things we want to do before we die, we want to remind ourselves.
Second, in the case of some lists, we want to be able to cross off the things we have done (to-do list) or remembered to pick up (grocery list). This is a psychological means of rewarding ourselves. There is just something pleasurable about crossing a line through an item.
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How Good are Your Lists?
There is more to making lists than just enumerating items. In fact, some people have made a real science and art of this activity. You can too, and make your list much more efficient. Here are some tips for making the best to-do lists ever:
Start with a “Brain Dump”
You don’t want to make a list that is so long you will never be able to get it all accomplished. This just brings about frustration and self-criticism. And yet you have a lot of things that should get done over the next few days. Make a list of all of them.
Now take a good long look at that list. What are the most important items and how many of those can you reasonably accomplish today? Take those and put them on your list for today. And then, you get to cross them off your brain dump list too!
Color Code Long Lists
You may have made a lengthy list of things that will not take long to accomplish. Still, you want to prioritize them in some way. Some people are actually so obsessed with lists that they write down every task involved in cleaning their homes. Your list may need to be organized according to importance or chronology. For this, you can use colored highlighters – red being the most important, and so on.
Once you have color-coded your items, make a new list with your priorities listed in the order of importance.
Don’t Duplicate What Has Already Been Done for You
You may have some tasks on your list that have already been devised by others. Suppose you are going on a vacation, for example. You may know something about your destination, so you begin to make a list of the thing you want to do and the places you want to visit. Instead, just access the Chamber of Commerce or a travel site and get their list. You can devise yours from that one. Suppose you are a student looking for reputable essay writing help. You can Google that and start making a list of those that look promising. Or you can find a review site with a list of the top writing services that has already done the work for you.
You Don’t Get to Skip Around
You have prioritized your list for a reason. Now, as you tackle it, you begin with #1. You do not move to #2 until #1 is finished, and so on. This is really important because we all have a tendency to take on the easiest or most pleasurable tasks first, leaving the harder and more distasteful for last. If you do this regularly, the really important things don’t get done, and then you are stuck with two or more of those at the end when you have less energy. Tackle the most important when you have the most energy.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
We all make lists that are more ambitious than the time we have. If they are prioritized, we will get the most important things done. At the end of the day, there may be things left on that list. It’s okay. It’s not time to “dump” on yourself. Instead, pat yourself on the back for what you have accomplished and transfer those last items to your list for the next day. Writing them down before you go to bed gets them “off your plate” and out of your mind. You’ll sleep better.
These five tips have formed another “list” for you. You don’t have to memorize it; you don’t even have to keep it, and it won’t keep you up at night. Just review it, take what is useful for you, and become a better list maker.