Do you know that feeling when you pick up your favourite pen, and tick the last thing off your to-do-list? Isn't it just the best! To me, the process of writing a list in the first place can be almost as enjoyable. To be perfectly honest, one big reason why I adore list-making is the joy I get from lovely stationery or a cute pen to write lists with. There’s also something magical about writing things down by hand, somehow it makes you feel more accountable. Nevertheless, I do also have a multitude of list-making apps on my phone and computer, each of which I use for different purposes (I listed some in an article about our favourite productivity apps of 2014). You don’t necessarily need to see lists as this binding contract that you’re either managing to keep up with, or feel guilty for falling behind on, lists can purely be a focusing aid. Here are some things I believe list-making can help you with.
1. A list can help you see the bigger picture
Seeing all the things you need to do swirling around in your head written down on paper often helps put them into perspective, so you’ll feel less overwhelmed. The process can also help you connect dots that you might not have been able to see when everything was jumbled up in your thoughts.
2. A list helps you to break overwhelming tasks down to smaller pieces
Once you have those tasks written down, you can make sublist for them (if you are an app user, WorkFlowy is amazing for this), so that a big scary goal becomes a lot more attainable by knowing the next little steps you need to take and focusing on one of those at a time.
3. A list motivates you
I certainly find lists hugely motivating. It’s such a great feeling to tick those completed tasks off my list, that it makes me want to get there quicker.
4. A list will give you focus
Having an actual, actionable list will give you a much sharper focus and help you work towards what you want to accomplish.
5. Ticking things off a list gives you joy
Ticking off things gives you a satisfied feeling that you would miss out on had you not had a list to tick off of. And who doesn’t want to create some extra good feelings for their day.
6. Lists help you manage the amount of daily tasks
Making a to-do-list for each day, and keeping it a reasonable length with only a couple of difficult tasks to complete, will make you a lot more productive. You can keep a master list of all the things you want to complete separately, but keep your daily lists manageable so that you’ll get to enjoy that satisfying feeling of completion every day. I keep my master list/s on the computer but write the daily lists by hand.
7. Lists can help you ‘fake’ momentum’
Ok, this one sounds a bit from the left field, but bear with me. I asked my husband what his favourite thing about list-making is and he said ‘listing things you’ve already accomplished and ticking them off’. (Ha. I know we’ve all done it!) At first it didn’t seem like this should really make this particular list, but the more we talked about, it dawned on me that this is not actually such a bad practice. Even if you are ticking things off that you added because you knew you could tick them off, the act of doing so can help you gain a sense of momentum, which will propel you towards completing the other things on your list.
8. Lists keep you accountable to yourself
When you work for yourself and spend most of the day alone in your office, there’s no sense of being accountable for what you’re getting, or not getting, done. Making lists will help keep you accountable to yourself, as your own boss. Even if we work alone we need some managerial skills, as dealing with ourselves can sometimes be a tricky business of trying to manage moods, distractions and self-deceiving.