How to Effectively Use Lists

I am totally a list person. Lists are the best thing for busy people. They help you organize your thoughts. They give you peace of mind when you know it is written down. It feels amazing when you can cross off things from your list. They are the most magical thing on earth.

Here is a question for all of you list lovers out there. Have you ever written something down on a list that was already done, just so you can cross it out?

If the answer is yes (which it is for me!), then you are not using your lists to their full potential. There are three more things lists are great for. They are the three P’s; Priorities, Project Management and Procrastination.


A good list includes everything you need to do. When your list includes everything, you can organize it into priorities and focus on what is really the most important thing. If you don’t list everything, how can you adequately prioritize…this is how that thing you just did that wasn’t on the list got done and needed to be added after the fact.

A prioritized list allows you to focus. It allows you to focus if you follow the following rules: If it isn’t on the list, you don’t do it! Only work on one thing on your list at a time.

For example, if I need to clean the kitchen, I put that on my list. Then, when I’m cleaning the kitchen and I pass by the couch and see a blanket that needs folded…do not stop for a second to fold the blanket. It might seem like multitasking gets more done, but you will find that you run out of time. When your time is out, you have a partially clean kitchen and family room. If you had just focused on the kitchen, it would be done.

Project Management 

Lists are great for project management. When I said above that you need to put everything on your list, I really meant everything! You need to list each little step. If possible, you should also list how long you think each step will take. Once you have everything listed, you can really plan out the timeline of your project.

Start by prioritizing the major steps within the project. For example, if you are planning to start a garden, you have to prepare the are before you buy the plants. You might also need to research the plants you want to grow to learn if they thrive in your area or what time of year you should plant them. When you make a detailed list, it opens your mind up to all of the things a project really entails.


Making a list can help prevent procrastination. As noted above, you should list all steps of a project. Then, set a priority for each step. When you list each step an assign a priority, it puts the project into perspective. It also makes it easy to tackle just one step at a time.

You remember the joke, how do you eat an elephant? …one bite at a time! Well, that is how to tackle a project that you might otherwise procrastinate…one tiny step at a time.  Then, you get the joyous satisfaction of crossing something off of your list. The act of crossing some off as complete gives you a sense of completion and might even make you want to do more.

The last book I read about procrastination was a quick and easy read. I actually bought 30 copies and shared it with my field team at work because I really thought it had great advice. It is, “Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time” by Brian Tracy.

This list method works well for me. I keep a master list in an app called Toodledo. This app lets me categorize, prioritize, and schedule my lists. All of my lists are in one place and I can access them from my phone or desktop.

My final thoughts for you is that your list is never done. You must recognize and accept it. Each day I try to make progress on my highest priority items. I set clear goals for which items I am going to tackle each day. When I am done, I do something to reward myself like go for a walk, paint my nails or even just lay on my bed and relax.

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