My clients, friends and family – especially my family – know that I am a big fan of lists. My four year old daughter is so used to seeing lists around the house that she copies me already. Look:
Oh, a mother’s pride…
Anyway, here are my 7 reasons to love lists:
- The physical act of writing something down means that you are more likely to remember it. That is a fact. List makers know that even if they leave a list at home when they go out to do the shopping, they will remember more items on the list than if they hadn’t made a list at all. Note I say the physical act of writing – actually taking pen to paper is proven to be more effective than typing things you want to remember. Why? With a pen and paper we are less likely to be distracted by other parts of our phone or computer (Facebook or Twitter, anyone?) when we are writing things out, and also our brain actually functions differently when we write to when we type. More about that here.
- Most of us have about a gazillion things going on in any one day. A to-do list will help you organise all that. Writing a to-do list for the next day in the evening before you leave work, or starting the day by writing a to-do list will provide your brain with some order and structure that many of us find useful or even crucial to productivity. They will also give you the impression of having a little bit more control over what you have to do.
- A brain dump. Have you ever felt like you just have too much going on in your brain? One way of helping with this is by writing some of it down. Now, a brain dump is unlikely to be the most organised or prettiest list you will ever make, as you need to get the information out of you head ASAP. Imagine you’re at the start of a huge project at work and your brain is whirring too fast for you to keep up? Brain dump all your thoughts into lists. You can even categorise them into urgent and less urgent thoughts while you are doing so. After you have got it all down on paper, take a break, think of something else and come back to it. The chaos in your head will be reduced, you will feel less overwhelmed and more able to look over your thoughts rationally. Brain dumping will free up your mind and give you the space you need to think and breathe.
- A sense of achievement. Crossing off things on your lists will give you a bit of a buzz. Even starting off with the small and easy to achieve tasks will help gain momentum and motivation for getting things done. You don’t have to go quite as far as the woman in the drawing above, but I bet I am not the only list maker who can confess to having done that with almost every list I make Trust me, ticking things off your list will power you forward.
- A list will keep you on track. If you are easily distracted by social media, small children or just new thoughts, having a list will help ensure that you stay focused. You will go back to it, review it, re-prioritise things on it, but you will always know what you have to do. New things can be added to it at any time. This is the same for any kind of list: shopping, to-do, bucket, reading, goals…
- Lists can inspire creativity and force you to think bigger than you would have done otherwise. You might not think lists is a word that goes with creative but it can. Imagine I ask you to tell me some awesome things about yourself. You will no doubt come back with two, three or four things, and three or four is better than nothing. But imagine I ask for a list of ten things. Or twenty. At first your mind will go blank, and you might well (hopefully silently) curse me for setting you such a ridiculous task. But I am persistent, and will nag you until you come back with the 10 or 20 awesome things about yourself. You know what? You will find them, and possibly not want to stop at 10 or 20. You will dig a little bit further into yourself than you would have done otherwise in order to come up with however many points you need. And you will feel all the more awesome for it. (This is just an example. I ask for all kinds of lists from my clients.)
- Lists are easier to read and understand than masses of prose, saving you time. When you have got five minutes in a busy day and are bombarded with information you are far more likely to read through a list than a big block of text. In fact you are more likely to have clicked on this post than if I had called it “All About Lists”. In a chaotic world where our time is precious we like the organisation of lists. This applies as much to what we read in certain circumstances as to the lists we write ourselves. Lists simplify things, and this is often a good thing. In depth articles, lengthy prose and novels are equally important, I am not denying that, but sometimes simple is necessary.
So, are you a list maker? Are you feeling inspired to become one?
Top image by jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net