Part one and part two of this series were written by Pace. She’s read “Getting Things Done”, but I haven’t (I’m slow to read non-fiction). In fact, I wrote this without intending it to be part three, but Pace liked it so much she asked me to tie it in. So here, have a tie!
And now, the post.
We tend to prattle on about organization, and it’s because being organized makes a huge difference in our effectiveness and efficiency. Well, that, and because we said this is a three-part series, so we needed three parts. We like to be honest. Anyway, it’s amazing, and I wouldn’t have believed it if someone else told me about it, until I tried it for myself.
Hmm. I realize I am telling you about it, but you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t want me to tell you things. Haha!
Today’s babble about organization is specifically about the awesomeness of lists. This post is delightfully meta; I went to our list of post ideas to figure out what to post about, and before the page even loaded I realized I would post about lists!
So, lists. As I mentioned, we have a list of post ideas. This is immensely helpful when I’m staring into this little white box with a blinking cursor driving me up the wall and a mind as empty as the damn box, and my brain starts inventing music to go with the blinking cursor’s rhythm. I go to our list, and reading it always inspires me, and I get rolling on a post (or two!).
I make lists every day for what work I need to get done. I have a notebook (which the kitten destroyed last night with water, thanks very much), and I write the day’s list in it and then keep it handy. When I finish something, I cross it off. Not only does my list get shorter and remain accurate, it’s amazingly satisfactory to scribble a line through something. (:
I make lists when I get stressed, to see what things are stressing me and what I can do to make it better. I recently made a list of all the house-related things stressing me out. The simple act of making the list helped ease the stress, because then I could see what I was actually facing rather than the built up huge pile of chores my mind invented. After I made the list, I was able to focus and accomplish things, and crossing that stuff off was incredible.
Making a list ensures I don’t forget things. When I have it all written down, I’m not going to get sidetracked by that interesting email or silly YouTube video and forget what I was doing. Well, I might get sidetracked and forget, but then I have it written down right here beside me, so I can go back to it and finish my tasks without floundering and feeling lost. I’m a big multi-tasker (at least, for the time being), so having that handily reminding list right there hones my focus.
Having a list means I know what I’m getting done. Another perk is knowing what I’m accomplishing every day. I make a list, I cross finished things off, and then I have a reliable record of what I’ve accomplished and what I missed every day. I review yesterday’s list each morning. If there’s something that isn’t crossed off by the end of the day, I make a note: I either need to postpone it or follow up on it in some fashion, and if I leave it uncrossed without a note, I’ll forget why. I find this useful for keeping track of what I’m waiting on and why.
The failing of lists can manifest in stress. Sometimes, I’m looking at my list, and I think, “Good gods, I have SO MUCH on my list today!” Then I get overwhelmed and wind up ignoring my list in favor of thrashing on the internet. I won’t look at the notebook. I can feel it sitting there, staring at me, saying all the things I’m patently not doing.
When that happens, I take a deep breath and relax. My list is my list. I’m in control of what I do and when I do it, so there’s no need to let it stress me out. The list is there to help me, not stress me. I’ll read it over (sometimes, I’ll hug my notebook; it’s silly, but it makes me feel like my list and I are on the same team), see if there’s anything I can postpone without negative consequences, and see what I feel like tackling in this moment. There’s almost always something that can wait, and something small I can do easily. Once I cross that first thing off, I get on a roll and get back into the groove – then I’m able to work more effectively!
On the occasions where I feel really stuck and unable to focus on my list, I’ll take a break. It’s fine to take a break, but I want to slack on purpose, not on accident. If I’m avoiding the list, I feel guilty and stressed. If I’m taking a break, I can relax and enjoy myself, and then return to my list without all that guilt in the way.
For my list purposes, I use a paper notebook because I like the sensation of drawing a line through finished tasks. Pace uses Remember the Milk. My brother uses Things, and I’m trying it out to see how I like it. There are various ways to keep a to-do list. I recommend trying a few things and see what works best for you, and stick with it for a while.
See the power of lists in action!