“Making lists helps me be more focused and productive, lowers my stress level and makes it easier to stay on top of tasks.” — Suzanne Kane
I’ll confess. I’m an avid list-maker. In fact, I’m so convinced that lists are beneficial that I’ve decided to reveal my personal thoughts on the 10 ways lists rule.
#1 — Keep you on-track. I don’t know about you, but it’s sometimes the case that I get so deeply immersed in what I’m doing that I lose track of time. This is a good and a bad thing. It’s good that I’m so focused and being productive, but it’s bad if I lose sight of other things I also need to tend to. Lists help keep me on track. They can do the same for you.
#2 — Remind you what’s important. List have the very appealing benefit of showing you and providing a vivid reminder of what you deem important. When you prepare and pay attention to your lists, you’ll always have a ready guidepost to the meaningful tasks and duties in your life. It may mean reorganizing some items when one takes precedence over another or a new one demands attention. Lists help remind you when you may need this the most.
#3 — Give you something to do. Not that there are many times when you have completed everything you need to do and are looking for something else to devote your attention to. But lists can serve this purpose when you want or need something that’s not on the top of your to-do chart. Be sure to include some fun or for-whenever items on your list so you’ve got something readily available when the power is out, there’s a snow day, you’re on vacation or just have some free time on your hands you’d like to put to good use.
#4 — Provide an easy way to prioritize tasks. It’s simply impossible to do everything at once. There has to be a means to prioritize what gets done first, what can wait a while, and what you can tend to whenever you get around to it. Lists provide this in an easy and painless manner. Assign a number to each item, with #1 being the most important and #10 (or whatever number) the least important. Sometimes, you’ll work on the #1, 2 or 3 items first and intersperse that with a lower-priority item. That’s so you don’t burn yourself out working too hard in succession.
#5 — Take away the stress of trying to keep everything in your head. Your kid needs picking up from school. The cleaning is ready. Dinner plans are uncertain. Your boss just handed you an urgent project and everything else has to be put on hold. What about all the other items you have to do today? What if you forget some? Here’s where a list removes the stress of trying to juggle and remember it all. There’s no forgetting when you’ve put it down on your list.
#6 — Allow you to track progress and results. Once you’ve constructed your list, created a plan or approach and begun work on one or more items, you’ve got a ready-made template from which to track where you are with each. When you achieve a certain level or stage of completion, note that, along with any lessons learned and what’s left to do. Seeing results cements the value of making lists. After all, lists are meant to be helpful. They will be, if you use them.
#7 — Increase self-esteem. Lists are composed of items that are designed to be worked on in some sort of order. When you complete or finish one item, cross it off your list. This helps increase self-esteem and makes you proud of your accomplishment at the same time. It’s not necessary to cross everything off your list in order to boost your self-esteem. Doing one or more well or making significant progress on a few also elevates your sense of accomplishment.
#8 — Improve focus. By selecting one of the items on your list and doing some work on it, you’re helping to refine your focus. Doing one thing at a time does wonders for improving this critical aspect of successful accomplishment. Instead of trying to do many things at once, keeping to one task on your list at a time will help you be more focused.
#9 — Help you organize your thoughts. With so much going on around you, it can be hard to separate one task, project, duty or activity requiring your effort from another. You need organizational ability in your thought process to keep things in order. Lists help you do that in black and white. When an item is right in front of you, you can better figure out an approach.
#10 — Allay anxiety. Ever feel that gnawing and miserable sense of worry over not being able to get a handle on all the things you have to do? It’s no secret that everyday life throws a lot of unexpected situations your way, things you need to deal with immediately. With a list, however, you can feel confident that you’ve put down what you need to do and can come back to as soon as you tend to the pressing concern. Lists also remove the element of uncertainty. If it’s on your list, you’ve given it thought.
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Do you have other ways lists have helped you? I’d love to hear your comments. Maybe they’ll result in a follow-up piece on the topic.
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