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The Year to Take Control of Those Lists!

By Victoria Plettner-Saunders

Every year about this time all the lists of “Top Ten (fill in the blank) of (fill in the year)” come out. You know Top Ten Movies, Top Ten Plays, even Forbes has the Ten Most Powerful Brands of 2015 list.

I kind of gave up reading them years ago, so I feel a little like Emily Nussbaum at the New Yorker who titled her list 2015′s Best TV: I Hate Top Ten Lists but O.k., Fine, Here’s a List.

I don’t want to write a Top Ten but I do want to share a few thoughts about the closing of a year and all those things we had on lists all year long – some of which we got to and some we didn’t.

List Control I’m a big fan of list making. Maybe it’s because there always seem to be a zillion things going around in my head that I want to do, or think I should do, and I need to put them somewhere before my head explodes. So a list is a good thing to make with all that stuff. Another thing about lists is the feeling of accomplishment we get when we cross something off.

Of course for a lot of things on our lists – especially if it’s a bucket list – it shouldn’t just be about crossing it off, but savoring the experience of doing it.

Lists can help us feel accountable too. If it’s written down, it’s out there, it’s like you’ve made a commitment to the universe or yourself.

Admittedly, I lose a lot of lists that I make because I put them on note paper and then they get buried on my desk. And as much as I covet the concept of being organized and meticulous, it’s hard for me to actually realize it. Every year I think it’s the year I’m going to take control back over my to-dos.

When I was a kid, a book came out just in time for Christmas and there was probably one under just about every tree.  The Book of Lists, by David Wallechinsky (and family) was a big hit. But if you really want to make your head spin, check of this List of lists of lists on Wikipedia.

Coming back down to reality though with the topic at hand, let me share with you a short list of the two lists of tips for good listmaking, one tool for discerning what’s most important on your to-do list, and one downloadable PDF of the ultimate to-do list template.

  1. The first comes from Richard Branson who is a list maker and incredibly productive gazillionaire. Since he touts his lists for his ability to accomplish things, I figure he must know what he’s talking about. It’s actually quite a sound set of suggestions for making your listmaking work for you. In particular I like his tip to “Write down every single idea you have no matter how big or small.” I do this often with something I call the Dump List. (Right before I put it on my desk and lose it.)
  2. The second list of tips for good list making comes from lifehack.org and it’s called 15 Tips to Make Today the Day You Finish Your To-Do List. I like their suggestion that one way to get things done is to isolate yourself in a room without a cell phone and no distractions. Distractions are the biggest nemesis to my ability to get things done each day. (Note to Self: Make a list of all the places I know without distrctions.)
  3. I have always thought Franklin Covey has some of the most reasonable ways of approaching time (and list) management. Their Four Quadrant system could be just the thing to help you prioritize your list take control over your listbased on what matters most.
  4. And finally, leave it to Real Simple Magazine to create the best list of list prompts. They call it “…a way to clear your head for calmer thoughts.” I call it a listmakers crack. Score yours here.
  5. Finally, I will throw this in because I think it’s kind of a cool site and it super creativity boosting. Artjournalist.com (a site for people who art journal) has a section with lists of journal prompts. I like to keep a journal and I often want something to get my mind in a more imaginative space. Plus, they they have a list of list prompts - what could be more perfect for the list obsessed?

So there you have it. Maybe 2016 is the year to stop reading other people’s top ten lists and take control of your own.