Using Lists Creatively

List making comes naturally to me. I learned how to spell writing out grocery lists for my mom. She would walk around the kitchen checking to see what we needed and call out things for me to write on the list. My job was to spell it out as I wrote it, or she would have me sound it out, correcting when necessary. I not only learned how to spell, but the value of that list as well.

But I know a lot of people balk at lists. It makes them feel too rigid, too focused. They want to be creative, flexible, spontaneous. So how’s that working for getting the bills paid on time?

Or as one client said, “I hate lists. Lists just show me how far behind I really am. I don’t want to be reminded.”

Another client says, “Lists don’t work. I make a list, but then none of it gets done.” Oh, so it’s the lazy list’s fault? I see.

But I’ll agree – all valid points. And maybe it’s not fair, but the bottom line is that list-users tend to be much more efficient than list-avoiders. And because they are more efficient with what they need to do, they therefore have much more guilt-free time to do what they really want to do.

And isn’t that *really* the bottom line? Here’s some tips to help you make lists work for you:

1. Make sure you have a clear goal for the list.
I know it sounds odd, but it’s one of the most important things you can do. It’s essential to tie it into your motivation; otherwise, as my client indicated above, you may just write it then forget it. Decide -“What’s the point of it? What do I want the item or list help me do?”

Think of this *specifically*, not just “be more organized”. The list might help you stop being embarrassed at your son’s soccer game because you forgot you were in charge of drinks. It might stop those late fees on the video rentals you hate so much. Make it personal. Make things on that list meaningful to your HAPPY life.

2. Be sure that there’s a clear reason that an item is on the list at all.
If it’s not important and meaningful, why is it taking up your limited and precious time? (Aside, just so you know, doing laundry IS important and meaningful to running a happy, healthy home). Is it really your job to deal with it? Can/should it be delegated to someone else? Is there a way to combine it with something else to simplify it? These kinds of questions will make it clear about your connection to the task.

3. Get creative with your lists.
One client of mine hung a giant chalk board in her laundry room near the back door. She divided it into 4 quadrants. To Call, To Do, To Buy, To Go. She used different colors for each quadrant, drew happy or irritated faces, all kinds of things. It was her creative response to a dull task. You might use different colored papers for different lists, or different colors for work vs. home. Or use “Top 10” to have some fun with it – Top 10 Errands to Run Before Saturday; Top 10 Things To Do In June; Top 10 People to Contact Before Carrie’s Wedding.

4. Find the link.
Probably most important of all is that you link your daily/weekly lists to your calendar/schedule. A list without a date/time link, is like a teenager with a credit card. It won’t work. The lists must fit into the way you live your life, and that is inextricably linked with your schedule.

Directed lists can be a simple, yet powerful tool in your daily happiness. Get listing!

Kathy Gates is a Professional Life Coach in Scottsdale Arizona who specializes in focus and motivation. Happiness is where self acceptance and self improvement meet. Greater confidence and happiness are a byproduct. Create it today!

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