IVP - Andy Unedited - In Praise of Lists

January 11, 2011

In Praise of Lists

Reasons to Make Lists

  • My work swarms with miscellany—large and small.
  • Emails, phone calls, meetings, interruptions, text messages and more are all coming at us faster and faster.
  • Multitasking doesn’t actually work.
  • If you saw my desk, you’d know lists are as essential as air and water.
  • I want to serve coworkers and those outside the office well. Forgetting just doesn’t get me there.
  • Even though I’m pretty detail-oriented, I still lose track of tasks.
  • With Mark Twain, “Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.”
  • What’s better than writing “Make a List” at the top of a page, making the list, and then crossing off “Make a List”?

Best Ways to Use a List

  • Have a large pad of lined paper at your side all day—or a file open on your computer.
  • Review the list at the beginning of each day and prioritize.
  • Add to-do’s as you go, one item per line if possible.
  • Obviously, you’ll want to mark off each item as it is done. But if you are working on a computer, don’t delete—either line out or move to “done” file for future reference of things done.
  • To scan more quickly through a handwritten list, strike through all the completed line items vertically, as well as horizontally. Then as more items are completed, connect the vertical lines. This way you can see more easily where the gaps are in what is not yet finished.
  • At the end of the day, take five minutes to review your list; think through whether you need to add anything you missed.
  • I admit I’m an old-fashioned pen and paper guy, but lots of online list-making tools are available too, such as Makealist or Toodledo or Mindjet. Some you pay for; some are free. They can allow you to access your list on the web (via computer or smart phone) from wherever you are; you can even print it out, like I would.
  • Once your list fills up a page, transfer the last few unfinished items to a new page—and enjoy the satisfaction of filing or discarding the full page.
Posted by Andy Le Peau at January 11, 2011 7:35 AM Bookmark and Share


I too live by lists. I use Google's Tasks which allows you to move to-do items between email and calendars in seamless fashion. I highly recommend it for those who are not the pen and paper type.

Comment by: Andy Jones at January 11, 2011 10:46 AM

Thanks for the tip, Andy. I'll look into it.

Comment by: Andy Le Peau at January 11, 2011 6:29 PM

If I may add one more thought...if something stays unfinished on your list for more than a week (or 2, or 3 depending on the task), reconsider its place on the list. Chances are that it holds no real priority or added value for completion. Either move it to a longer term tracking tool (like outlook tasks) or remove it from the list. If your list gets cluttered with unimportant tasks, it loses its value.

Comment by: Carol Glover at January 20, 2011 2:36 PM

Great suggestion, Carol. Thanks.

Comment by: Andy Le Peau at January 20, 2011 4:55 PM

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