Who likes to make a list? Checking off feels good but making the list? Not so much. The list is too big, long, overwhelming. Or it gets lost, isn’t used except in a crisis, has too many tasks on it for the day.
And yet, as David Allen of Getting Things Done discussed- among many good ideas I’ve adopted – if we can empty our mind of the “stuff,” then we can do some real thinking (strategic, creative, etc.).
NO List – a badge of honor?
If you’ve always relied on your memory, it`s a source of pride. For my grandmother, at the age of 85 (of her 102 years!), her memory wasn`t as sharp as it had been. She kept everything in her head, proudly so.
So naturally I suggested she keep a list to help lower the anxiety about forgetfulness.
Proudly, she resisted.
I suggested a calendar instead of a list. She did buy one and write things down, perhaps to placate her granddaughter, perhaps to be open minded, perhaps she knew I was a tiny bit right in some way.
But she never looked at the calendar. It turns out that the calendar didn’t matter. The writing process did matter.
She told me what many clients in the future would say: Writing down calls, appointments and things to do created a visual impression of what was in her mind (or a kinesthetic process for others). This did help her remember more. [Research has shown that handwriting versus typing does solidify information better.]
So, Lists, Redefined
What’s the point of a list?
Less forgetting of details; less mind clutter equals better attention (to children, managers, partners, other people); knowing a master list is different from the weekly list is different from today’s list; adding things you do or are asked to do which were not on your list; recognizing how much you DID get done; avoiding procrastination; have a full picture of what’s on your plate (sometimes scary but a first step in recognizing something needs to be done to keep your sanity).
Creative, less ‘boring’ ways to keep a list
Audio: Talking out loud to yourself, using a phone/recording device, Google/Alexa, using software (e.g., Dragon Naturally).
- One client uses the auditory option to help her process incoming mail and papers. It is easier for her to talk through the next steps than to write them down.
- Another client uses the talk out loud approach to draft emails, difficult ones particularly.
- Another client adds items to his list or calendar.
- Draft a blog …. many possibilities once you start. (And, handsfree in the car is great!)
When I`m stuck and can`t figure out what to do next I pull out my pocket recorder and start talking. Or if I have lots of ideas for a workshop or article, I’ll pull out the phone to record, too.
Some of the recording is stream of processing which I may later ignore, but I empty my head of ideas. This makes it far easier to reflect on and figure out my focus for the article or project. Less noise.
Yes, You Can Make Lists Beautiful & Fun
Apps are great. First figure out what is important to you in an app. Same with a planner. For example, do you need the whole day? Separate lists for a.m. routine versus daytime? Checkoff lists? Do others need to see it, too?
Needs first. Product second.
- For household CEO’s: momAgenda’s notebooks, journals and pads
- Or this daily list from The Container Store-purposefully small so you don’t try to put too much into a day.
- Practical but gorgeous for parents (pictured, MomAgenda planner).
- Mind maps: My favorite book by Joyce Wycoff is what I recommend to learn the value of and basics of mind mapping.
- Or, try out a free app: SimpleMind is what I use. MindMeister is another. If you tend to: think in pictures, have lots of ideas without much order, or feel like you’re mind is going to burst, try a mindmap. You can use post it notes, too, and move them around. With the apps, it’s so easy to pull all your ideas out of your mind, and then rearrange them, group them (often necessary) and being able to see it all, out in front of you is key, especially if you have ADHD, but not necessarily.
- For artistic, creative entrepreneurs, Lisa Sonora Beam’s approach to creating your plans is divine and irresistible.
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