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We all adore nifty organization ideas, right?
But what if we’re so set on discovering the “niftiest” of them all, that we forget about the simple things that really make the world go ’round?
Today we’re talking about something that has been my lifesaver through high school, through college, and now as I embark on my blogging journey.
I like to believe I am a naturally organized person, but alas, I am not. It actually takes quite a bit of effort for me to organize myself. But the triumph I feel once I’m done is so addicting that it’s totally worth the effort.
I wholeheartedly applaud people with superhuman record-keeping abilities built into their brains. Sadly, I am not one of those people.
I wish I could call this a hack, though if I did that you’d probably laugh at me even more than you already will when I tell you my little not-so-secret trick. It’s so simple, but it works!
So what is this underrated organization idea that I speak of?
The dying art of list-making.
There— I said it— A list. That’s it.
I know some of you are thinking, “Seriously? That’s your big secret?”
I told you you’d laugh.
But you’d be surprised at how many people I have met who don’t know how to make a list.
Let me rephrase that. They are able to make a list, but that doesn’t mean it’s an effective one.
Let’s talk about what a list is not
Lists serve a specific purpose in our lives. They’re meant to organize ideas and plans into manageable nuggets that encourage action.
When was the last time you made a list just for the sake of making a list?
Really, you wouldn’t.
You make lists because you want increase your productivity. Because you want to get things done.
My favorite list-writing notebooks >> Fringe Studio Journals on Amazon
A list is not a chronicle of everything you need to do sometime in the next 2 and a half months.
It is great making note of goals that you have for your future, whether it be in the next week, month, or year.
However, simply scribbling out a 10-mile-long “list” is not going to help you accomplish your goals. Instead, it will only overwhelm you and make you feel defeated before anything has even been started.
If the list looks intimidating from the get-go, you’ll never start crossing things off.
A list is not a cluster of paragraphs resembling a five page essay.
The purpose of a list is to simplify your tasks into a manageable visual. You should be able to quickly scan the paper and internalize the bare minimum of words that are crucial to the proper completion of the task.
You shouldn’t have to sit there and read your list.
If revisiting your list is akin to sitting down to read a boring novel, then you won’t do it. You can’t cross off items if you don’t even know what they are.
So what does a good list look like?
Take these actionable steps to refine your list making skills and set yourself up on the path to success.
Oh, and check out the gorgeous (and well-priced!) planner I’m breaking out for 2017! Since you’re working so hard on creating the perfect lists, you totally deserve a beautiful place to write them that inspires you. Because there’s no point in keeping such beautiful lists if you don’t know where they are, or you don’t want to look at them, right?
Sugar Paper White Weekly Planner, 2017 >> Purchase on Amazon
One type of task at a time
For example, “things to clean,” and “things to do this afternoon,” are appropriate list topics because they are manageable.
Things get crazy when you have multiple tasks floating around at once. You’ll probably end up spending more time looking over your list than doing the tasks stated in the list.
Ask yourself >> Is this list something I can accomplish with one set of tools, or will I need to stop and reset myself before continuing?
If you know you’ll need a completely different situation for half your list, make a separate list. Yes you’ll still have the same number of tasks that need doing, but you’ll feel much more productive after you’ve powered through the first list.
Have you ever created a list called, “Groceries,” knowing that you’ll purchase a few items at Safeway, stop at Whole Foods for a few more items, and then gather the rest at Costco?
Running around to several locations in order to accomplish your list totally kills your mojo. It’s like the never-ending pasta bowl, but not in a good way. Instead, your simple grocery list becomes the never-ending scavenger hunt. Bleh, not fun.
If you know you’ll need to go to several locations to get everything done, create a separate list for each location and cross them off as you go.
Ask yourself >> Can I accomplish all these tasks/buy all these things/etc. in one place?
Time matters, too
A list with two months worth of tasks?
Can you imagine how long that list would be?
Honestly, I’d forget the list even exists.
Ask yourself >> How long will it take me to finish this list in its entirety?
The purpose of your list is to finish it swiftly so you can move on with your life. The last thing you want is for your to-to list taking over your life. After all, utilizing these organization ideas is meant for improving your life, not hindering it.
If the answer is longer than one day, then you’ll run into issues. Aim to create a list that you can burn through in a couple of hours. Even if the list is only three or so items long, you’ll be super motivated to complete the tasks and move on to the next.
My favorite list-making pens >> Staedtler Triplus Finalizer 0.3mm on Amazon
Focus on bite-sized tasks
I used to write tasks that sound a bit like these- “Finish English project,” and “Publish blog post.”
What’s wrong with these?
They’re super broad.
We all know that publishing a blog post entail much more than simply hacking it out on the keyboard and hitting “Publish.” We have to write the content , edit the content, take photos, create graphics, schedule social media, plus a multitude of other things. It gets overwhelming.
Ask yourself >> Is this item on my list a singular task, or is it a culmination of multiple smaller tasks?
Break up your larger tasks into smaller, bite-sized tasks, and list them all separately. This way, you’ll power through them and cross them off more rapidly.
The fact that the individual tasks aren’t ginormous won’t matter in the slightest. Just seeing how quickly you’re eliminating tasks will make you feel super productive and eager to continue.
Cut unnecessary details
I used to have a major problem when writing travel packing lists.
My lists always ended up looking something like this:
It’s painful to look at, isn’t it? Being the super detailed person I am, I figured that adding as many specifics as possible would result in me making less mistakes and forgetting less things.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
All it did was give me a headache and consume precious time as I sat there trying to make out the nonsense. I probably spent more time examining and deciphering the list than actually doing things from the list. Ridiculous, huh?
Ask yourself >> Are all the details I’ve included absolutely necessary?
Trust me, I love a good, detailed list, but sometimes there exists too much of a good thing. Unless the specifics are absolutely necessary, in which case, by all means, add them, I suggest keeping your list as simple as possible.
If you must include specific details, write those details down in a separate list. It doesn’t have to be far away- just on the other side of the paper is good.
Keeping your main list simple makes crossing off items you’ve completed super easy. Plus, it never hurts to visually keep inventory of what’s left.
When your list starts mocking you
This proved quite a problem for me in college when I had several projects going on at once.
I would often compile one long list of everything that needed to be done up until all the projects for all the classes became due at the end of the semester. We’re talking about two months into the future, here.
Said list instructed me to read this book, read that book, look up this word, write that outline, and so on and so forth. As soon as I accomplished one thing on the list, I would add another unrelated task to the list. It basically became a bottomless pit of things to do.
Instead of showing me my progress and encouraging me to keep moving, my list was hindering my success by basically shouting at me, “You’re failing! You’re still not done with this list? How are you not done? It’s been a month and a half! Are you doing anything at all?!”
I felt like my list was mocking me. I felt down because I couldn’t even please a piece of paper. It was awful.
By following the list making tips above, your lists won’t know what hit them! Kick them to the curb, give yourself a pat on the back, and go off and implement more awesome organization ideas.
Own your lists, girl.
The best part about a list is finishing it
I love the “never-ending pasta bowl” analogy, so we’ll go with that one again. Does anybody feel good while trying to shovel down entirely too much pasta? I’m guessing not. They’ll reach the end, (whatever that means for them,) but they’ll feel tired, weighed down, and ready for hibernation afterward.
I don’t know about you, but a never-ending list makes me feel the same way.
The moment when you check off the last item on your list is amazingly satisfying. It gives you a sense of achievement that boosts your vigor to continue being productive. Why deprive yourself of this amazing feeling?
I hope my tips can help you in your endeavors toward becoming a productive, well-balanced person.
And remember, organizational ideas don’t have to come from the depths of our life-hack-finding-imaginations. Sometimes simple really is better.
Always make your lists short, manageable, and actionable.
Put this post into action! Write down the Ask Yourself questions on a sticky note and stick them in your planner. Next time you’re making a list, grill yourself on the basics to make sure your list is manageable, and productive.
That’s all for today!
Like this post? You’ll definitely find this one useful too >> How To Never Run Out Of Things To Blog About
If you find this post interesting, informative, or just plain entertaining, tell me about it in the comments below. And don’t forget, sharing is caring. Share this post!
Till next time. ♥︎
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Hi Tabitha! I don’t think of writing a list of a waste of time because it actually saves me time in the long run. I get SUPER involved in tasks when I work, and so if I don’t have my plan laid out, I’ll spend even more time trying to remember what I was supposed to do next! It’s kind of comical when I think about it. Thanks for reading, and I hope you found this at least somewhat useful! 🙂 xo