I grew up in a household of sticky notes. My mom would post them everywhere - "Don't forget..." "Remember to..." They drove me crazy. They were too all over the place. In hindsight, those pesky notes made me appreciate the benefit of writing things down. Once I moved out of the house, I missed my mom's daily reminders but I knew that wasn't the method that was going to work for my demanding schedule. I'll never forget what my golf coach at the University of Washington said to me; "Golf is #1, School is #2 and everything else is a DISTANT 3rd." I remember thinking who was she to tell me how I could prioritize my life? I knew that if I had good time management, I could handle anything and everything that was thrown at me. So I started making lists. I had a list for everything. I even had a Printer make my own special lists. I became an obsessive list maker. And against my coach's will, I had time to have much more than school and golf in my life.
Over the years I've refined my list making techniques that work for me. If your lists are working great for you, then I encourage you to keep doing what you are doing. If you're struggling with staying committed to your lists, I'm hopeful my tips will motivate you.
1) Take 15 minutes at the end of your day to make your list for the following day: There are 1,440 minutes in one day. This is a realistic goal. Nobody is that busy. The theory behind writing your list the night before is this - it allows you to review the current day’s list. You see what tasks you've done and which ones you've neglected. The uncompleted tasks should roll over onto your new list – the next day’s task list. If you have one particular item that keeps rolling over day after day, this is a great visual to show you that it's not really a priority. You need to do some soul searching to figure out 1) why you put the pressure on yourself to want to do it and 2) what is causing you to skip over that time and time again?
2) HAND WRITE your lists: Yes, the old school way. I encourage you not to use a fancy task manager software or an app on your I-Phone. There's something about physically handwriting it that connects you personally to it. You don't need a fancy pad of paper. Just find something that works for you. I personally like to make check boxes before each task so I get the satisfaction of checking it off the list. I also do not encourage writing on the back of the page. Keep everything visible on the front so you won't miss anything.
3) Write your list in PENCIL: The eraser is my best friend. I can't stand scratching something out. It makes my skin crawl. I promise you - if your list is messy, your day is bound to be messy. You want to embrace your list, not scream at it.
4) List out everything that comes to mind: Even the obvious. Calls you need to make. Emails you must respond to. Work out. Pick up. Drop off. Gas. Laundry. Don't just assume you'll remember. You'll catch yourself at the end of the day saying, "shoot I forgot to do that." Always put the exact time certain things need to happen so they are constantly staring you in the face throughout the day. You may find, as I did, in the beginning you'll be overzealous – scheduling more tasks than you can possibly handle. Think about the things that absolutely need to get done TODAY. Not next week or even things that could wait for the weekend. It's ok to have multiple lists going at once. At this current time I have a: grocery list, Target list, Costco list, Honey-Do List (a must!), Appointments to make list, and weekend to do list. And it's only Monday. When I know I have some time in my day to fit in these errands I will prioritize them into the daily list.
5) Prioritize your list: After you know what your day ahead has in store, either rewrite your list in order or just number them in order of how your day should realistically unfold. If you work out first thing in the morning, start the list with WORK OUT. Even if you do it everyday and you don't think you need to be reminded. It's so gratifying at the end of the day to look back at ALL the things you accomplished in your day. If you're planning on getting out of the house a few minutes early to get GAS before you DROP THE KIDS OFF AT SCHOOL @ 8:00, list or number that next. If you see it on the list next, you will be more apt to get out of the house early like you planned. If you know you need to do LAUNDRY and WRITE THANK YOU CARDS TO SHARON & CINDY while the kids are at school, list that during the appropriate time. You will be more motivated to stay focused on the tasks and not get sidetracked on checking Facebook or doing a task that could be done over the weekend. Now I know that things randomly come up and you get pulled in all different directions especially when you have kids but just try to visualize how you would ideally like your day to go and stick with it as much as possible.
6) Carry your list with you: I religiously carry my list in my back pocket. I never forget what's next. And I'm able to check off the tasks as I go. One task done, on to the next one! Nothing is more satisfying. I’ve been doing this for years and I still get a little burst of pleasure every time.
Phew, list making 101 is complete. Again this is what works for me. Making lists shows me how to set boundaries, take control of MY day and manage MY time. You can rest assured that if you become a list lover will not have to worry about forgetting something important. And you will have a strong sense of energy and excitement - confident that your day is going to be a productive one.