Do you know the power of the list?
The list is what has made us the dominant species on this planet. Due to the fact that no other can plan and implement lists quite like we do.
With that in mind, remember everyone, from the most successful to the everyman, all use lists for everything, from everyday tasks such as laundry, groceries, and errands to important work such as schedules, plans, and reports.
The list is the fundamental building block of everything we do.
But are you using them effectively?
This question comes from the fact that most people if not all have never really thought hard about how they use the lists in their lives. Not knowing conceptually, the reasons they use the lists they do and understanding if it’s actually the best lists for them.
Now here is the rundown of how lists work and the many different ways you can customize them to your every need.
First off is the variables that change with each list and how they affect its purpose and effectiveness. Below is a table of a lists 4 different variables, their variations, and how they work.
Time - Short, medium, long, and undefined - this dimension is used to find how long your list will be used.
- Short – is used over a span of one day or week (Groceries)
- Medium – used over a month or longer (Study Guide)
- Long – used over a year or longer (Year Schedule)
- Undefined – unknown how long it will be used
Occurrence - Instantaneous, Revolving, and Once - this dimension dictates the setup of how events occur on your list
- Once – This event occurs only once (Buying lists and outlines)
- Instantaneous – this event occurs as you do it (Journal/Logging - Ex. Bank Statements)
- Revolving – this event occurs every day, week, or longer (Workouts, Study, and Eating)
Importance – weak, moderate, and strong - This dimension is used to rank the importance of the events on your lists and the order they will be done. (Can be numbered, bolded, etc.)
- Weak – an event with weak importance is done when your motivated to do it, you have the time, and is not essential for your goals (May never get done)
- Moderate – an event with moderate importance needs to be done, but not immediately and can be important for your goals. (Convenience)
- Strong – events with strong importance have deadlines that have to be adhered to and must be done to accomplish your goals. (Mandatory)
Control – Transferable and Fixed -this dimension says how much control you have over the placements and implementation of the events.
- Transferable – this event is flexible (Workouts, study, and others in your control)
- Fixed – this event is fixed to a time and is inflexible (Work, class, and others out of your control)
Now that you have the different variables that go into making lists. Here a few examples of how those variables work together to create different types of lists.
The Active List
The first example is a short list that uses all three occurrence, importance, and control dimensions together. It is called an Active List. This is due to its lively nature and constant updates to what you need to do.
Below is an example in a Word Document.
To do – Groceries (W)
Books to Read – Unleashing the Power of Consultative Selling (W)
Meetings – Doctor’s Appointment (Tu, 10am), Catch-up with former colleague (M, 1pm)
Blog (Every Th) – List Article finished (Tu), Post (Th), Dissect Power of Habits (F)
Social Media – Post to 3 blogs (Tu), Respond to Comments (W)
Network – Copywriter seminar (W, 8pm), Mastermind Group (Th, 7pm)
Psychology 101 – Hw (W), Exam (F)
Geology 101 – Research Paper (M)
Algebra 101 – Exam Study (Tu), Tutor (W), Study Group (F)
With this list, you have activities in your life that you have to do each week but what you have to do changes, Blog– for example, is on the list because I update my blog on a weekly basis. As they change, they get bolded to signify that they have to be done today. The parenthesis letters are the due dates they need to be done by, (W) = Wednesday of this week and etc. And the“, #’s” are the exact times they need to be done or attended. So at the end of each day, you bold everything with a (W) as it’s the things you will have to do tomorrow.
This list is useful for keeping track of multiple activities that you do on a daily, weekly basis, that are updated constantly. It categorizes them in a way that helps you remember what you need to do in what subjects.
A complementary of this list is the Schedule. This is a long-term list with fixed events, which occur instantaneous with time to create a linear path for you to follow throughout your day and week. This is any planner, scheduler, or other time based outline that shows what you plan to do.
You can even combine the Active list with the Schedule and write the activities that have no set time at the bottom of each day as a To-Do list. This can be done using different schedule templates and software such as business calendars that update on your computer, phone, and other media devices.
This type of list has a long term time dimension of a year and is useful in reminding you of events that are far away and unmemorable like renewing your subscriptions.
Another useful list is the Habit list. It’s a list with an undefined time dimension, revolving events, with moderate to strong importance, and transferable control (meaning you have control of what time to do it during the day, but it has to be done to sustain the habit).
This list is used by listing things that you want to turn into habits and is used as a go-to reminder that you are making it a habit or not. The events on this list are revolving and do not get eliminated until you know for sure that the habit you want is instituted in your routine which can take a few days to many months.
Below is an example:
1. Use phone schedule to eliminate written schedule
2. Read 1 book a month
3. Type an hour a day
4. Study Chinese an hour a day
5. Workout 4 times a week
This is useful in constant reminding you to do something that you want to turn into a habit and is even more effective when combined with a timer system through your phone or watch alarm.
The Memory Palace
The next list is called a Memory Palace. This list is a once-only list of things that are used for a onetime events. It is a short-term list used once, and his list is a mental list and is rarely written down. This list works by associating everything on your list to a story. And to remember the individual items. You tell yourself the story.
For example, I have to buy some things from the store. I need toilet paper, body soap, and duct tape. I then make a story up about those items.
An example: I was Toilet Papering the neighbor’s house, and he ran out, throwing Duct Tape and Body Soap at me.
This quick little story is absurd and memorable enough to allow you to remember everything on your list. In fact, the more incredible and ridiculous the story, the more memorable the story becomes.
The Day Journal
The last list of the day is a day journal. This journal is an instantaneous list of logging the events that occur as you do them. In essence, you are writing everything you are doing by the hour and is objective to what is actually happening and not what you want to happen (compared to a planner).
Below is an example:
9 – Woke up
9:30 – breakfast and coffee (Spinach, eggs, and tomatoes with coffee)
10 – Started work on List Article
12 – Finished article
12:30 – Lunch (Brown Rice, spinach, salmon burger with green tea and honey
1:30 – Back to work and posted article
2 – Water cooler Break
This list is the best way to find out the things that you do in a day, what causes them, and how you can identify good and bad behaviors that you want to change.
An example would be to see a pattern in your behavior such as going to eat some food down the street to get out of the office, but you are trying to lose weight. If you see this trend you may be able to identify that you are not actually hungry, but you just need a breath of fresh air. Identifying that you go out to eat as a habit, allows You replace this behavior with an exercise program, getting coffee or tea with friends or coworkers, or something else that aligns more with your goals and fulfills your needs.
There you have it. An in-depth look at the everyday list that everyone uses with 4 different variations to meet your needs. Amazing how something so routine can be honed and calibrated to accomplish your goals.
If you have a great list or were able to benefit from the lists provided to maximize your time, please share your list and experience, and tell your story.