A Fresh Look at Lists

One good way to get organized is to make a list. But not all lists are equal.

By FamilyTime


One way to get things done is to compile a list. This might be a list of errands to run on Saturday morning, a shopping list for the supermarket, a guest list for our child’s birthday party, or a list of people to whom you owe thank you notes.

Without doubt, lists are helpful ways to get organized. It’s gratifying to check off completed tasks; rewarding to toss the list in the recycling bin or delete from your Blackberry. And then start a new list.

Short or Long?

There is no reason to stretch your lists. Even two or three items make a list. If you believe that any to-do list worth its salt should have at least 10 entries, ask yourself why.

There are reasons for long lists. If you are shopping for a week of groceries, this is generally true. Keep in mind, though, that super long lists of tasks rarely get completed.

Instead, consider breaking lists into categories. Put the most achievable jobs at the top of the list so that you can check them off early. This is good incentive to travel down the list.

Linear or Free Form

The most obvious way to make a list is to write it in a linear fashion, beginning at the top of a page and moving down. This is sensible for most lists, but some lend themselves to more creative design.

If your tasks involve subsets of activity, consider connecting circles or splayed arrows. This way, it’s easy to identify the order of importance each assignment assumes.

Life Lists

Every now and then it’s a good idea to write lists about bigger things than dropping off the dry cleaning. Writing lists of our dreams, ambitions, and goals helps define and clarify them.

Sit down with a pen and paper — preferably a pen you like using and some nice paper — and think about what you hope to accomplish in the next six months or year (or five years). Doing so will give you a window into the state of your life, and may help you decide how best to get from point A to point B and beyond.

Other Lists

It’s fun to keep lists of the books we read, the movies we see, the places we travel, the people we meet. When you review these lists, memories come flooding back.

Other lists are good ways to exercise your brain. Try to remember the names of the presidents and vice presidents in your lifetime, the capitols of all the states, or the species of birds that frequent your birdfeeder. You will think of any number of lists to make — just for fun!

Not all lists are for the supermarket!