Maybe you’ve used lists before, but they haven’t benefited you. Did you know there’s a specific way to make a list so that it motivates you? Here are some tips for making lists that help you get things done.
1. Be specific. Using a basic, everyday activity as an example—don’t just write, “Clean the Kitchen.” Break this basic activity down into specific steps such as: clear the table, wipe the table, empty/fill the dishwasher, complete hand washing, sweep the floor. Once that’s completed, I can begin working on another task on my list.
2. List vertically. Notice how hard it is to read and check off the list above. So, don’t use paragraph form. When you write your list vertically, you can easily scan to see what you need to do. Write the steps in a logical order. So this is what your list might look like:
• clear the table
• wipe the table
• empty the dishwasher
• fill the dishwasher
• complete hand washing
• sweep the floor
Note: Actually, I can keep this list in my head, so I don’t need to write it down. Only write down what you can’t remember.
3. Check it off. Once you complete a task, check or cross it off. This way, you don’t need to do them in the exact order they are listed. You can use different colored ink to write and cross off, but I like to keep it simple—either blue or black ink.
4. Use a notebook (or other tool). I used to make lists on scraps of paper, but they were hard to find and keep track of. Now I make my lists in a spiral notebook. That way they are all together. I date my lists, too. I can look back on them, if needed. If it’s on my list, it WILL get done. Like the photo above, you can use a frame and dry erase marker for your lists.
5. Add to your list. Did you complete a task that’s not on your list? No problem! Add it to your list and cross it off. There’s no better way of feeling productive. This type of list can be used not only for your basic housework, but also your bigger goals.
6. Have a goal. Research shows that there’s something in your brain that helps you accomplish a goal you’ve written down. That’s why you read about people who have done everything on their “bucket list,” a list of bigger goals people want to accomplish before they “kick the bucket.”
7. Break it down. While these bigger career or life goals take longer to accomplish, there is no limit to the possibilities. Just like the course assignment, break down a bigger goal into steps. For me, that big goal was getting published in a magazine. Breaking it down into steps look like this:
• Enroll in a writing course
• Observe children in my target age group
• Study the elements of writing good fiction
• Practice writing for my target age group
• Read several issues of the magazine
• Study magazine for the types of stories they publish, the tone, voice, etc.
• Write a story for the magazine
• Write a cover letter geared to magazine
• Submit story and cover letter to the magazine
• If story is rejected, write another story
Taking those necessary steps at the beginning of my career helped me reach my goal. Now, hundreds of articles and over 60 books later, I am living proof that writing specific lists helped me stay on task and succeed. So write a list that motivates you to accomplish your goals, big and small, and you’ll be on your way to making your dreams a reality!