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Article: The Power of Keeping Lists Related Resources

The Power of Keeping Lists

© 2003, Kathy Burns-Millyard.

How do you balance work and family, keep things from falling out of the loop, and be as productive as possible at all times? These questions plague people in all walks of life - Home office professionals, CEOs & Executives, and Domestic Engineers too.

Keeping a schedule is a nice thought, but it doesn't work for everyone. Take home office professionals for instance - Their schedule is usually flexible. They could try setting up a specific schedule, but the downside is that they might find themselves shuffling appointments more often than they're getting things done.

And that's where the beauty of lists comes in. By making a list for specific items, you're not bound to doing things at a certain time of day. And you don't have to stop and think about what to do next.

Let's look at an example. One daily time consumer for me was deciding what to have for supper each night. This decision usually hit me between 3:30 and 4:30 every afternoon, when I was trying to wrap up the day's work. Every day, someone would ask, "What's for supper?" and I'd be completely distracted from what I was doing. Then I'd spend at least 15 minutes thinking about it, being irritated by the same question day in and day out, etc.

Even after the decision was made, the interruption and irritation made it difficult for me to get back on track with my work.

That same example played a part in my weekly shopping list creation. In my house, I make a shopping list about once each week, and my husband does the actual shopping. Creating the list was a chore, because I didn't really know what to get "this week", and I'd often forget to put important items on the list.

So, how did I change both of these issues at once? By creating a weekly meal list. I now sit down about once each week - usually right before creating the shopping list - and plan the meals we'll have on each day of the coming week. With that meal plan in mind, I can then whip out the shopping list without much thought or effort.

But the real productivity enhancements come from the daily "What's for Supper" questions. Now whenever someone asks, I simply open the meal list on my Palm, look at the particular day, and tell them. There's no thought needed, no planning, no looking to see what's in the fridge. No brainwork at all is needed.

Now you might be wondering how these lists can be put to use in a daily work schedule too, right? Well, my latest list is what I call my "Daily Writing Roadmap". I've decided that once each week, I will create a list of articles to be written each day. So my writing list shows Mon-Fri, and each day has a title or topic assigned to it. When it's time to write, I simply look at the list, and see what's already been decided for today.

I no longer have to look at a long list of ideas, and waste time trying to decide which one I want to write about. I no longer have to browse the web looking at news, trying to generate good topic ideas. I've already done all of the planning, brainstorming, and related "thinking" work. All I have to do each day is look at the decision that's already in place... then take action.

The same can be done for almost any type of daily actions you want to take. If you're working on creating your Website for instance, create a list called "Weekly Website Plan". Then decide what exactly you will do on each day of the week.

Mon - Design website flow and usability
Tues - Decide on color scheme and layout
Wed - Create template and main page

The trick though, is to assign an action to a specific day. If you simply make a list of the things you want to do, even in the order you want to accomplish them, you may find yourself putting things off or questioning the order you currently have them in. Thinking and planning is good, and needed... but it can be used as procrastination tool. Having to stop and think about what you're doing on a day-to-day basis can cause a serious loss of time.

Lists like this can be used for a variety of purposes:
- The exact people you will call on a specific day.
- The exact project you'll work on each specific day.
- The exact customers you'll visit each specific day.
- Want to know whose day it is to use the washing machine? Keep a laundry day list.
- Need to know who'll have the SUV on Tuesday? Keep a Car list.

So what's eating your productivity a minute or two at a time, and what kind of list can you make to solve that problem? Try it... You might be surprised at how powerful that list can be :)

Related Resource: HoneyDo! for the Palm Pilot -

© 2003, Kathy Burns-Millyard. All Rights Reserved.

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