According to the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, the average human being processes approximately 70,000 thoughts per day (www.loni.ucla.edu). Yes, 70,000…PER DAY! Here is thought 70,001; how in the hell are we supposed to remember toilet paper, milk, the ergonomic safety meeting right after lunch on a dull Tuesday, and to take the trash out to the street so you don’t miss another week? The answer; lists, lists, lists.
In recent years, technology has lent itself to facilitating list-making. Take a quick look around you at this very moment and think about all the things you could make lists with. Your smart phone; because Lord knows there’s an app for that. Your email program? I bet it has task or list creation software embedded in it. And who could forget about the good ole pen and paper method? Go old school and pen yourself a to do list.
In my opinion, lists are awesome! And now I’m going to give you the top 5 reasons why I love lists.
Prioritization: With an overwhelming amount of personal and business “things” looming over you on any given day, lists allow for you to prioritize, or not prioritize the haphazard items that need your attention based on their importance. The simple addition of 1., 2., 3., etc., can help you focus on the more pertinent tasks while allowing you to keep those not-so-important tasks still in mind.
If you’re anything like me, it’s fair to say the more important tasks carry the most burden or stress along with it. Completing your top tasks first will not only give you a great sense of accomplishment but it could also relieve a tremendous amount of stress in the process.
Lists are finite: The fact you can make lists as short or as long as you deem necessary is pretty sweet. If it’s a lazy Sunday, don’t overdo yourself; make a list that might include a little bit of laundry, maybe a trip to the grocery (don’t forget your grocery list), and taking the dog for a walk.
On the contrary, if it’s a Friday and you have projects due at work, try to make a list that encompasses everything you need to complete going into the weekend. Marking those tasks off and seeing a list that’s complete will afford you the opportunity to free your mind as you close out the work week. Nothing is better than going into a weekend free from work stress and lingering projects.
“I have a memory of a goldfish”: This is not something I pride myself on but I really do have a memory (short-term anyway) of a goldfish. The sad part about that is I’m 29, not 89! It’s not uncommon for me to leave my home for work and turn around not once, but twice, to fetch something I’ve left behind. Unfortunately this short-term amnesia applies to the grocery store, work, and other areas of my life as well. This is why lists come in handy; it does all the remembering for you!
With smartphones and other forms of technology, one can easily keep track of things as they are thought about throughout the day. Some lists can be created very quickly, such as when you’re standing in front of the refrigerator preparing to make a trip to the grocery while others can be developed over a certain span of time. It’s these lists that are generated over time that are the most difficult to remember. For example, let’s say you’re planning to resurface your dining room with laminate flooring in two weeks. You’ll want to start a list of items and materials you’ll need for the renovation immediately. Then, a week later, you stumble upon a YouTube instructional video on how to install laminate flooring. There’s no doubt in my mind, you’ll see an item that didn’t make its way on your initial project list. Refer back to this list immediately, if not sooner, and document that particular item. At this point, forget about it until it’s time to redo that floor.
Organization: Some might say organization and prioritization are one in the same; however, I’d like to disagree. When I think “organization”, I think “bringing order to chaos”. And each and every one of us leads a chaotic life, to varying degrees. By making lists, whether work or personal related, you will find yourself much more organized than before.
When I think about this reason as to why I love lists, I think about the daily activities sheets that are posted at your daycare providers facility. Every single daycare I’ve ever been to has had a very structured “daily activities” list. Some are even detailed down to the quarter-hour; outlining nap time, play time, reading time, etc. There are even families out there who do this at home to “bring order to chaos” during the evening hours; 6 pm – dinner, 6:30 pm – homework, 7:30 pm – baths and family time, 9 pm – bed, etc. If you’re thinking, “Damn, I’m running all over the place in the evening grabbing one kid to do homework and trying to put the other in the bath…”, give this list a shot.
Crap gets done: And of course the #1 reason why I love lists, well, crap gets done! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve actually sat down, made myself a list, and actually got everything I needed to be done, out-of-the-way, never to be messed with again. I also can’t tell you how many times I’ve questioned, “What did I need to get at the store again?”, when I didn’t have a list. There’s something about a list that entrenches some kind of motivation in me; maybe it’s the satisfaction of crossing task by task off then deleting or throwing it away.
So I’m curious, what kind of lists do you all make? Do you make lists at all? If not, how come? If you do, do you find yourself less stressed and getting more done?