The Joy of Lists
Pretty much everyone makes a list at one time or another. If you're going to the grocery store, you make a list of things you're out of so you don't forget them. People use check lists to make sure they've packed everything for a big trip. Maybe you make a list of pros and cons to help you with a big decision. And let's not forget the ever popular bucket list.
There are a lot of good reasons to make a list, but I'm mainly going to focus on how I use lists to make me more productive. Hey, I have an idea, why don't I list my top five reasons for making a list? :-)
1. Lists keep me organized. I can see at a glance what I need to get done in a given day and arrange my day accordingly.
2. Lists help me remember stuff. I have a really sad excuse of a memory, so I need to write stuff down to remind myself I want to get this or that done.
3. A list lets me see there's a beginning and an end. A task doesn't look quite so bad when I break it down into a list. I can see all the steps involved and, most importantly, that there is an end in sight.
4. More than making a list of things I need/want to accomplish, I love to be able to cross things off of my list. I can pad my list with details, just so I can cross more stuff off and feel better about what I've done in a given day.
5. Lists help prevent procrastination. I'm a big time procrastinator, so it's good for me to sit down and list the things I want to accomplish. Then if I gravitate towards gaming on the internet I can just glance at my list and remind myself I have other stuff I should be doing.
Another great thing about making a list is that it allows you to prioritize. First you list everything you want to get done, then you pick the most important task to complete first.
Study Guides and Strategies has a time management series and one of their components is How to Create a To-do List. You should check it out - you pick out your top four tasks and then explore why these tasks are important to you, what your reward will be for finishing them, and when you should have them completed.
While there are programs out there to help you create a list, like Todolist, or Workflowy, or Scribbless, I find what works best for me is good old fashioned pen and paper. I have a long, narrow notepad to create my lists in. I group my tasks under headings like "priority" or "emails" or "writing stuff" and each heading gets its own page. I add things to the bottom of the lists as needed and cross tasks off as they're completed. When I get to the bottom of a page I start a new one.
Now, if I could only remember where I put the darn thing! ;-)