Whether you write a to-do list, a grocery list or a list of pros and cons – the act of putting thoughts down on paper will be good for your mind, body and soul. I’m not kidding. Making a list will decrease stress, increase productivity, keep you organized and focused, and give you a sense of accomplishment.
Making a list may seem pointless at first, but investing some time into this simple task offers big returns. My beloved journalism professor Cathy Krein always told us to “keep it simple, stupid,” when critiquing our writing. She meant that in the most loving way and I think that statement can be applied to everything in life – including lists.
I’ll get to more benefits in another blog, but here are the reasons you MUST start making lists now:
1. We are forgetful
It’s true – the average adult attention span is 15-20 minutes, so we are bound to let a few tasks fall through the cracks here and there. But you don’t have to!
As you think of something, write it down in a central place – the pad on your refrigerator door, a Post-it note on your desk, even in your cell phone calendar or in an email.
I need to write down a task right as it comes into my head or else – Poof! I’m off to something else and it’s gone. Taking just two seconds to write a task on your central list will save you so much time and aggravation later.
2. You need to focus
Keeping focused gets tougher and tougher by the day when you lead a busy life. How many of you have tried to write an email to a client or friend and then got sidetracked because another email pops up?
So you stop writing email number one…start writing email number two…boss calls…kids cry…delivery guy arrives…ahhh!!!! Get the picture?
With a list – you have a reference to always go back to that will keep you on track when you get interrupted. If you need to write John back but your boss calls, write on your to-do list – “email John.” You know as well as I do that as soon as you hang up the phone – something else will grab your attention. Writing it down is so simple it seems stupid – but it’s also incredibly effective.
3. Order doesn’t matter (except when it does)
Don’t worry, you can still be a little bit disorganized if you want. I’m not taking that away from you! For the most part, I just write down tasks as they come to me and prioritize as I go along. No need to put them in order. Of course you’ll get to it – it’s on your list.
Some people will want to write a to-do list in order from 9am-9pm to stay on track. But you don’t have to – you can do whatever works for you. I say as long as you get it down on paper – the order doesn’t matter.
4. “Be Prepared.”
As the official motto of the Girl Scouts of America – this statement holds some weight. I myself was never a Girl Scout, but I hold this tagline near and dear to my heart. Ask my friends – I always have a snack on hand, a piece of paper and a pen. You just never know! Same goes for every event in life – you must be prepared. Whether you are looking for an apartment or job-hunting, you need a list to keep your priorities in check.
My husband and I were looking for a new apartment a little over a year ago and I made an “Apartment Search Checklist” of all the things that we needed to notice when we went into each apartment. How many closets were in each room? Was it cable-ready? What floor was the apartment on? Hardwood or carpets? Was there a doorman?
It sounds so simple – and you may think, “of course I would notice that stuff!” But trust me, you won’t. You’ll be overwhelmed and you’ll walk in, look around, and say “Oh, this is nice,” walk out and totally forget what you’ve just seen because after a while one apartment looks just like the next! If you have a list – this doesn’t happen. You have proof. You could also take some pictures – but you still won’t get the whole story that way.
5. Famous people do it
List makers are successful, and if you don’t believe me — check out the company I keep. Madonna, Ellen Degeneres, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Martha Stewart have all been known to keep lists.
Being able to accomplish your goals is one of the secrets of success. And if you have to keep have a dirty little secret in the form of a to-do list in order to achieve success – then so be it!
Get out a piece of paper and pen or open a new document and start listing. Just try it – and if it doesn’t help you stay focused, I want to hear about it.