Mike’s ‘Lists Article’ List:

  1. Introduction to lists, why they are so important to me and what the experts say the benefits are.
  2. Identify the benefits of lists and list making for the average professional
  3. Talk about a few of the different list types available and tips on how to best leverage them.
  4. Warnings about lists. (add a bit about current use and future problems)

Mike’s ‘Lists Article’ List:

  1. Introduction to lists, why they are so important to me and what the experts say the benefits are.

I love lists, I know I’ve mentioned them in the past.   I have lists of lists, and i’m a techie guy which means i’ve automated most of my lists.  Yes, I’ve tried apps like wunderlist to keep my lists shared and synced, but the reality is that they don’t work nearly as well for me as a simple spreadsheet.  I don’t think they are lacking in any sort of way, but I grew up on spreadsheets, and we always gravitate to what we know best, what we are most comfortable with.  For me it’s spreadsheets.     I have one that is like the one spreadsheet list to rule them all.  It includes my family budget, my goals for the household, my tech goals, my financial goals, my passwords, household projects, and even modeling on how much I would take home based upon what lottery prize I could win. That last list is actually much more complicated than you would think.  I don’t just do spreadsheet lists exclusively.   I also keep paper lists, I make one every morning for work and I keep one on my person at all times.  A close friend of mine refers to that last list as “My Precious” after the one ring of Lord of the Rings  fame because I always have it on my person or in my hand.  That particular list is my calorie intake list.   I tell people I’m a ‘Fat Guy’ in a not so fat body.  I figure being a ‘Fat Guy’ is quite a bit like being an alcoholic.  No matter how long your dry you can always fall back into the negative behavior pattern.   I don’t know if I’m a food-aholic, but I know from years of roller coaster weights that if I don’t stay ever vigilant my weight can go from acceptable to very very unhealthy rather quickly.  The power of my calories list, my precious, is that it’s always there reminding me of where I am at in the day.  

I’m not alone in this.  Lists are a big thing.  I even found one website that’s a blog, has a book, and is an educational resource about list making.  Unsurprisingly it had a list about the benefits of lists.  The meta list included benefits such as reducing anxiety, health benefits and boosting your brainpower.   Admittedly, we live in the age of the internet, and there is a website that includes a blog, a book and educational products on just about any subject.   I’m sure if I looked hard enough I could find one that includes a book, a blog, and educational products on how to get your kids to move out just as they hit puberty.   For the record, i’m sure having a teen free house will also include benefits such as reducing your anxiety, bettering your health, and increasing your cognitive skills.   

  1. Identify the benefits of lists and list making for the average professional

We live in a complex world.  In our world, we have all manner of social requirements, ever increasing work related responsibilities, and more and more complex familial responsibilities which in many ways are partially the result of everyone in the family dealing with the increasing complexity of the other two aspects of our life.  It all feeds into each other like a hurricane over the ocean getting more and more complex and dangerously powerful.   It’s a far cry from everyone living on the farm and having the state fair being the big social event of the year.   We have to set our lives up where we can get work that aligns to our specialization.  About 40% of the time this means we have moved away from family.  So no Nana around to help us get up early, get the kids out to school, go to meetings, conferences, etc.  

This is the power of the list for the professional.  Our organizations may want us to act like robots but we are not. We don’t have perfect recall and prioritization analysis with our relentless barrage of variables.  Lists help us organize, arrange, prioritize, and make sure we meet the needs of our ever more complex professional responsibilities.  

3) Talk about a few of the different list types available and tips on how to best leverage them.  

The first and most classic list is the ‘To Do’ list.  I’ve written before about my ‘Do Doo list’ that originated from the late great Bill Nolff.  We used this as a checklist.  It was simple, write it down, cross it out when the task is done.  The only real problem with this list is as I stated before, that we live in a really complex world.   I’ve found that when using your own personal Do Doo list it’s nigh impossible to get to the end of it.  It’s ever growing.   So how do you keep it from being a mess?  

Tip: Rewrite your list daily.  It may seem simple, but there is a refresh and renewing component to rewriting your list.  What I do is as I transfer something from the old list to the new list I cross it off the old list.  In this process, I am, in a way, completing the old list, even though the way I complete some of the items is by reprioritizing them onto the new list.  

Shopping lists are more than just a shopping list.   It’s the Do Doo for getting stuff.  The real power of this list is only if you stick to it.   If you use the shopping list properly, you can avoid the pitfalls of never achieving your acquisition goals.  If your goal is backyard furniture, and your buddy offers to sell his old hot rod to you, unless it’s on your list you should probably pass.  

Tip: In a shout out to my wife who first came up with the idea, one of the things we do with the grocery list on a big shopping day is to arrange by section of the grocery store.  It literally cuts my time at the store in half when i’m doing the groceries.  Time is valuable because it is finite.  

The T-Chart is a powerful list for decision making.  It’s a simple two column list.  You draw a big T on a piece of paper, and then on the top left, you put “PRO’s” and top right you put “CON’s”.  You then list out the pro’s and con’s of each.  In an ideal world,  visualizing the pro’s and con’s should help you make better decisions.   I have to say it’s not perfect, sometimes even if it’s obvious what to do on paper, I still find myself undecided on a decision because of the emotional hooks.  

Tip: Go geek.  Pro’s and Con’s are nice, but different things on the list have different weights.  For example, when making a T chart about deciding to take an out of town job,  ‘more money’ on the pro’s side probably isn’t close to the weight of  ‘loose close family support’ on the con side.  Go with your gut on this one.  

4) The warnings about lists

Lists aren’t perfect.   You have to learn list management to use them effectively.  You can actually have too many lists in your life.  I border on this.  You can also spend more time putting things on the lists than taking things off the lists.  The guardian does a really good job of laying these out so I won’t rehash other than to say their were some tips they offered that resonated well with me.  Specifically the suggestion to avoid keeping multiple lists and to keep from putting on unachievable goals is something I’m always having to work at.   We are all different and i’d recommend you check out the post if you really want to start a journey to become a master list maker, that being said, even if that’s your goal, you probably don’t need to take an online class or read a book on list making. I believe that this is one thing that professionals can figure out for themselves if they put some time into it.  

I mentioned digital apps that are clearly going to be the new world of list making.  They have their own dangers and benefits.  If Google knows where you are because of the GPS in your phone and that there is something on your list that you need to do there, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will turn that into a feature.  Sooner or later it’ll be expected that a reminder is going to pop up on your phone or watch to goose you into getting that thing on your list taken care of while you are there.    “Check with Teacher about jr’s grade” will show up just as you pull into the school parking lot to pick up Jr. from school.   Privacy issues aside, I can see where if not managed properly these automated lists can get us stuck into activity traps that keep us spinning in our hamster cages but not being productive on the bigger things we need to accomplish in life.  My only real tip here is to keep some awareness about how these digital lists and reminders are really impacting your life.  

Lists are good for organizing your mind, organizing your life, and getting things done.  If you don’t use them, you should really start.  As a matter of fact, you should put ‘make lists a habit’ on your list of new skills to adopt and master.  I’d also recommend that it’s the first thing you can cross off on that particular list because it’ll help you complete the rest of the stuff on it!

A note to my readers:

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Posted by Mike Peluso

Mike Peluso writes about the collision between between the business / professional world and life. He also writes about the journey involved with the Peluso Presents efforts including the Blog, Books, and Podcast so that others may benefit from his efforts. From Mike: I spend hundreds of hours working on these articles every year with no compensation other than support I get through donations. You can support with a tip and by Subscribing to the Podcast (and writing a review on iTunes would be really appreciated as well!) One time tips:

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