The opposite of listless...

I love lists, anyone that follows Spinning Plates will know how much I love being organised and how often I wax lyrical about ways that organisation can be accessible to everyone. List making is the absolute cornerstone of that for me- it helps me retain my sanity and make sure I’m getting everything in my life done. People do laugh at me, they say I overdo it and that I should be more relaxed. It made me feel better- therefore- to read a blog Richard Branson had written saying that he lives by lists… see, it’s not just me!

The main purpose of a list is to make sure you are doing the things you should be doing. They are not about aspiration (we aren’t talking about your bucket list here) but about realistic, quantifiable actions that need to be achieved for you to function both in your personal and your professional lives. In addition to that it’s not infinite- these actions have a time frame so make sure that that’s reflected in your list. Mine is a weekly one and each week I create a new list to reflect the things that need doing for the next seven days, some tasks slip and get carried over but at least I know where the goalposts are as I move forward.

I still get people asking me how I do it and how they can do it; so I’ve pulled together a few of the tips I always give people when it comes to starting your own list addiction…

1.       LINEAR VS RANDOM– When I say list I imagine you think of a linear column stretching off for eternity. For some people that fills them with joy (yes I am one of those) but for others I know it fills them with fear. For those people I suggest a different approach, move away from a list-like list and try a spider diagram. All your thoughts and tasks are still on there but they’re laid out in a more organic fashion which you might find more accessible

2.       FIND YOUR STYLE – I’ve changed my style over time; I used to write my lists with tiny illustrations instead of bullet points, sometimes little ice-creams, sometimes stars but all pretty and coloured in. These days I’m more a traditional circle, inked in for solidity. Everyone is different, find a style that works for you be it doodling, bullet points, charts and make your lists something you can work with and enjoy working on

3.       PAPER OR TECH – Now I’m a fan of the paper list, I have a notebook specifically for them which I carry round but I have plenty of clients who use online systems such as Wunderlist, Remindus or Finish with great success. Either way the secret is making sure you get everything down on the list, if you don’t write it down you won’t do it! And on that note make sure you look at your list, if you don’t look at it, you won’t remember it and again, you won’t do it!

4.       REWARD YOURSELF – You need to make sure you’re recognising your successes. For some people that’s as simple as seeing a page of neatly ticked off actions but for others it needs to be more quantifiable, like a glass of wine at the end of a week. Find what works for you and build that into your routine. If you’ve achieved all these amazing things, when you said you would then you deserve a pat on the back

5.       TASKS NOT PROJECTS – This is really important, a to-do list must be achievable and to do that it should be made up of small, bite size tasks and not massive, multi layered projects because those will never get ticked off and that’s demotivating. If you break the project down into its various stages you have a list of tasks that you can, and will, tick off with pleasing ease

6.       MOUNDS AND MOUTAINS – For most people a list will contain a combination of tasks that are simple and every day (picking up a prescription, posting a letter, sending a quick email) and those that are more challenging. These are your mounds (small and easily scaled) and mountains (larger and more daunting). For those of you that are visual it can help to annotate each task with a little mound or a little mountain to show which is which. The key here though is to make sure that you are tackling at least one mountain a day and as many mounds as you can fit in, otherwise you aren’t really making progress on your list at all. Plus climbing those mountains brings more motivation and allows you to increase your productivity

So take the insurmountable and the fear and face into it with a list. Don’t get me wrong, it won’t solve all your problems but at least you’ll know where to start.