On some of my social media profiles, I call myself a list-making enthusiast.

I make lists every day, sometimes multiple times depending on what I’m working on. They are so embedded in my processes that I forget that other people don’t use them with the frequency that I do.

When I’m creating lists, I like to do the following:

  • Write lists on paper (I only use a digital list for groceries)
  • Exhaustively list everything that I can think of that pertains to the particular topic or issue at hand so that it’s not in my head anymore
  • Create check boxes next to action items so that I can note when things are completed
  • Write numbers next to items so that I know which order I need to complete things (this is especially helpful when a list looks overwhelmingly long)
  • Use color to code various items on my lists when they are getting completed, put off, or delegated
  • Keep lists in a planner (I use this one) so that I can look back and see the range of things that I have completed over time
  • Draft lists for certain time periods, like days, weeks, months, seasons, or years

Over many years of using lists, I’ve found them to have a huge range of benefits:

Lists help me prioritize. When everything is written down in front of me, it becomes clear what items are the most urgent and important for me to address. I can also more easily see the low-hanging fruit that will allow me to quickly complete certain tasks for easy wins.

Lists help me organize. Sometimes, when the ideas in my brain are all jumbled up, a list makes things seem simpler and more doable. I can also group tasks into different categories, assign them to particular days, and make sure that I’m not missing any tasks for larger projects.

Lists help me clear out my brain. When I’m at my most stressed, my partner always encourages me to make a list. He knows that I need to get things out of my brain and onto the page so that I can move forward instead of getting paralyzed by the projects in front of me.

Lists help me be productive. Most weekends if I don’t make a list, I don’t get much done. Keeping my to-dos front and center helps me to systematically work through projects and ensure that everything gets completed on time and to the best of my abilities.

Lists helps me get motivated. If I’m feeling lazy, I always create a list to see what the smallest next thing is that I can complete. Working my way up from smaller to large tasks helps me to stay engaged with projects and move forward even if I’d rather just Netflix binge.

Lists help me delegate and share the load with others. Some of my favorite lists are those that I can share with other people such as the digital grocery list that my partner and I update together. Since he works from home, that’s a list that often gets delegated so that food magically appears in my fridge.

Lists help me plan. For my largest projects like books I’m writing, podcast production, and courses I’m building, lists help me to decide what needs to get done when in order to make sure I don’t stall out or lose momentum. By creating project-based lists, I can always know the next steps needed to move forward.

Lists help me brainstorm. I have ideas all the time. Some are good and some are awful. Listing them all out ensures that nothing gets lost and helps me to maintain my creativity in the midst of a heavy production load with writing and other brain-draining tasks.

Lists help me to put big ideas into manageable action items. Perhaps the most helpful thing for me about lists is that I can break down what may seem like an incredibly scary project into tasks that are more actionable and reasonable. Lists help me to chunk information so that it can be processed and acted upon.

I’m not entirely sure why, but lists are a really good fit for how my brain works. I know that’s not true for everyone, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t live without them.

To think on:

  • What ways do you utilize lists in your life?
  • Are you a list-making enthusiast? Why or why not?