I live by lists. When I need to do things for work or at home, my first thought is to reach for my notebook and pen and jot down a list. Most of my lists are short term affairs (though I tend to write them all in pen). I compile our grocery lists at home in the kitchen. When we follow the rule “it’s not on the list, we don’t buy it”, then the longest part of the trip to Wal Mart is waiting in line… though – to be fair – that’s usually the longest part of the trip, list or no list. At work, my lists keep me organized, despite about 10,000 distractions a day. I can navigate through the perils of unprioritized work and keep my focus on the issues that are most important.
While most lists are gone in a day or two, I do keep lists that are more long term. I wrote out my resolutions for the New Year back in December and tacked them up on my bulletin board in my office. Other lists stick around even longer. We moved into our house in the spring of 2001. I went around and wrote down everything I could think of that needed to be done on a room by room basis. By the time I checked off the last item on the list, the ink had faded and the paper was yellowed from the sun.
Having a long list can be daunting. Sometimes just looking at the list can prevent you from doing anything. In those cases, I try to break up the tasks a bit. Maybe “clean my office” is a little too big for an evening. I break it out into smaller tasks like “clean my desk” or – even smaller – “locate my computer monitor”. Other times I add items to the list that I’ve already accomplished. It’s not cheating per se; I like to think of it as priming the pump on my plan to action!