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Shelley Bassett

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A list in a notebook of blog ideas

Why I’m a List Person


May 4, 2018

Being a list person is great! There are so many kinds of lists, that you can create a list for everything. Here's just a few ways that lists are helping me everyday.

I love lists. I think I’ve always loved lists, but I didn’t really become a list person until I lived with another list person. It’s eye-opening just how much you can achieve when you’re working from a list, and that’s important to me. My time at university really taught me the value of organisation, and one of the methods I use (and will continue to use) is lists.Using lists has a number of advantages. You can easily see what’s coming up, what needs immediate attention, and what you’ve been putting off doing. If you save your lists, it’s also a nice record of what you’ve achieved. Being able to see how much I’ve done can really inspire me to do just a little more. Or helps to ease the anxiety that I’ve not done enough.

The shopping list that lives on my fridge

The shopping list that lives on my fridge

I’ve never been a naturally organised person. In fact, I’m a bit of a mess. But I’m learning, and one of the tools I learnt early on was listing. There are a number of very real advantages to this, as well as several ways to use lists.

Breaking it down

Lists don’t work for big tasks. The ones that feel overwhelming and mountainous. You can’t just write take over the world on a list, you’ll never get it done. To be an effective list person, you really have to break a task down. Topic by topic or chore by chore, each item on a list should be achievable on it’s own, preferably within a few hours.

This took me a lot of practice to master, but one simple trick is to pick a goal. If your goal is clean the kitchen, the things on your list would be stack the dishwasher or sweep the floor. The goal is part of the broader plan to clean the house, but the list only has tasks that are achievable. This is a habit that can be applied to almost any task, and will make accomplishing large goals much easier.

Finishing tasks

I’m terrible at actually finishing things. It takes me ages and sometimes it just kinda doesn’t get done. But listing it out makes it a constant reminder that it needs to be finished. And it also brings the immense satisfaction of crossing something off once it’s done. I love marking things off, normally with a big fat line. It’s a subtle I beat you to the task.

Types of Lists

Running Lists

This has become one of my favourite types of lists, and I tend to use it exclusively for large projects. It’s the kind of list you just add to as you go. My best example of this is when I’m building a website, although I’m sure you’ll see other applications for it. As I build and design, I have a notepad on the desk next to me. Every time I find a bug or error that doesn’t immediately relate to the problem I’m working on, it goes on the list. It stops me forgetting about it, but doesn’t require me to break concentration with the task at hand. When I have a spare 5 minutes, I’ll go fix it.

I also use a running list for this website. I’m constantly noticing little things that could be better, or might need tweaking. But I don’t always have time, or other things are more important. So they go on a list. Normally these are a bunch of tiny edits, and once the list has gotten lengthy, I sit down and work through them all.

Ordered lists

So far I’ve only really spoken about unordered lists. But sometimes it pays to prioritise things too. When I need to do this, I actually end up with two lists. The first is just a brain dump of all the tasks that need completing. Write them out so they’re clearly visible. Then I number them in the order they should be achieved. Finally, I can re-write the list in the correct order. For me at least, I need to see the tasks in order, and not just numbers on the page. It might be different for you

Reference Lists

I’ve previously spoken about this kind of list as a brainstorming tool. Essentially, it’s just a list of ideas. But I find these lists so useful. In fact, this blog topic came from one of those lists! I think this is why I’m a list person. It lets me take these ideas from my head where they’re constantly bouncing around as I fight to remember them, and puts them on paper, where they’re preserved no matter what my brain is thinking about.

A list in a notebook of blog ideas

The blog ideas in my business notebook

Writing vs Typing

It’s a common question these days, is it better to go digital? And I think that with lists, like everything else, the answer is it depends. I know people who always write it down on paper. And people who mostly use their phone. I’m the kind of list person that uses paper, although recently I’ve started branching out to digital. The biggest issue I have with using my phone is that the lists are hidden. I like that I can sit one on my desk and see it at all times. And you can’t use a big black marker to cross off items on the screen.

But I’m a dedicated list person. So digital works better for me than nothing. It’s just a nice reminder of where I’m up to, and what is still to be done. There’s no right or wrong with being a list person. It’s just another tool to motivate yourself, and reach the goals you’ve set.

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