Personal Development Toolbox

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Develop the Habit of List Making

by Tony Jeary

If you can develop the habit of list making the way I describe it, I guarantee that procrastination will have no room to grow or flourish in your life. If you can crush procrastination, your achievement level will skyrocket. Click To Tweet

List making, the way I practice it, is a way of life. By that I mean it is the most significant tool I use to keep my entire life together and functioning. I use it with my staff, my clients and even my gardener. If I were to stop making and using lists, my success and achievements would be significantly reduced.

My list making system has been developed over a long period of time, as I have continually expanded the way I use it. Like most people, I started by making simple “to do” lists. I wrote down everything I needed to do on a daily basis, numbered each item and used it as a way to keep up with my tasks. As my business and my family agreed, my list making activities grew to accommodate both. For my lists, I prefer for the most part to use the ever-trusty legal pad. I use computers and PDAs, but for me, the yellow-pad approach has an edge in three distinct features of every effective list:

  1. It is easy to review.
  2. It is immediately accessible to capture notes, make updates, mark completed items and add new items.
  3. It refreshes my memory and reinforces my priorities, as I am forced to continually rewrite the items I still need to complete.

These features are important to any list system to achieve the top four benefits of list-making that I will discuss later.

The Productive Power of Lists

I keep a master list of everything that is going on in my life, and I update it completely every 24 to 48 hours. Between updates, I make notes right on the master list. Those who use an electronic list may want to write on the printout or use Post-It'” notes to capture thoughts, ideas, changes, new tasks and completions between online updates.

When I update my master list, I have my current master in front of me, along with any Post-It notes and index cards I have accumulated since the last update. I then completely recreate my master list from scratch. In fact, I have discovered is that manually writing and rewriting my lists forces me to be aware of the things I have not yet completed. There is brainpower found in the action of physically rewriting my lists frequently. Some say this effort costs time, but I say it is a supercharger. It reveals procrastination spots and helps me focus. My master list contains every action item in which I am involved, in both my personal life and my professional life. This master list links to the “My Life” file in which I keep my personal goals.

Using a pen, I divide a single 8 x ll-inch page into enough columns and blocks to list everything I need to do, as well as the key things for which my staff members are responsible. I have a place on the list for new ideas and a place for suggestions I receive from others I talk to. Recreating lists forces us to confront items on our lists. Ideas for any of the 15 subjects that I study on a regular basis will go on the list as a reminder until I have fully incorporated each idea to the point that it is automatic in my thinking. I also include calls that need to be made, items I need to purchase, and my top priorities for the upcoming day.

How important is list making to me?

I get up early every day, and list making is usually the first thing I do. This process will normally take just a few minutes, but occasionally I may spend as long as two hours updating and recreating my master list. I refer to this list 5 to 20 times each day, so it is well worth investing the time to create. Considering that I do this every 24 to 48 hours, this is, admittedly, a time requirement; but I believe the benefits justify the effort. I probably spend close to 400 hours each year making my lists. That is the equivalent of 10, 4O-hour weeks! I take the use of time very, very seriously, and I very seldom waste time. I am well aware that time is our most precious asset. I even count minutes. That should tell you how important I believe list making is to my success.

List making eliminates procrastination

This is, by far, the greatest benefit. I can honestly say that I rarely procrastinate (notice I did not say “never”). I do exactly the opposite, since I am always doing Things. I focus on completing things ahead of schedule, and remaking my lists manually allows me to do that. It is a rare occasion if anything ever slips through the cracks.

For more on this topic read:

The Amazing Results of Writing Down Your Goals

For more on this topic read:

The Amazing Results of Writing Down Your Goals

Procrastination: 7 Causes, 7 Cures​
Creating Impeccable Structure for Your Life