Why I’m lost without lists

Posted: 15 June, 2012 in motivation, writing
Tags: , , , ,

I can’t remember where I read the story about a woman in a fluster every day because she had too many things to do and too little time to do it.  At the request of a work colleague, the woman sat down and made a list of everything she needed to get done that day.  Half an hour and two full pages later, she was still writing.  When she stopped and looked at her list she realised the reason she had been going crazy was because no person could possibly complete all these tasks in one day.  She had overwhelmed herself with a list of tasks that a team of people would have struggled through. Seeing it all on paper brought her back down to earth and made her realise she was putting too much pressure on herself.

I live my life by lists and I love this story because it reminds me that, while I can have extraordinarily productive days, I am limited in exactly how much I can get done in a day.  Yes, there are times when I’ve managed to get more done than I thought possible.  But it’s better if I know my limits and start my day with a prioritised list of tasks.

Picasso said, “Put off until tomorrow only what you are willing to die having left undone.”  While this isn’t the best advice to be going through my head some days (you know the days I’m talking about), it is a timely reminder that there are some tasks that are more urgent than others. The real benefit of making these lists each day is that it gives me a chance to prioritise – to look at everything and determine what needs to be done, and what can wait.

It also helps me if I note a projected time-frame for each task.  It’s easier to put that dreaded phone call at the top of the list when I see it’s only going to take five minutes. Which means only five minutes into my day, I can cross off my first item.

Lists are especially invaluable to writers.  I have compiled a few lists while writing my book: contents, points I want to make in the story, important points of interest for the storyline, and so on. As I incorporate these things into my story I cross them off.  I keep lists of articles I want to write, blog topics, market opportunities and writing projects, and all these lists keep my workday productive and ensure I always have something to work on.

I love using lists as a learning tool as well.  When researching, I list 10 things about my subject, instead of taking extensive notes, and the facts are more likely to stay in my head.  In meetings all my notes are organised by lists.  I can expand on these points later but keeping a list of every item brought up in the meeting helps important points stick out.

I can’t promote the benefit of lists enough.  They help keep my head clear and are a great tool for helping me be more productive in every area of my life.

And now I get to cross another item off today’s list!

  1. Joe Pineda says:

    So as long as you realize your limitations, you’ll be doing great. Good luck!

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