Friday, May 8, 2015

The power of lists

By Paz Etcheverry, Ph.D.

I love lists.

I am always creating lists. I wake up and I make a list of what I have to do on that day, i.e., my daily to-do list. In my mind, if I wrote it, then I have to complete it by the time I go to bed. Otherwise, I do not feel productive; I do not feel like I have accomplished much during the day.

In addition to helping me feel productive, my to-do lists help me manage my time more efficiently. They help me focus. My lists also serve as reminders of what needs to be completed. Mind you- my to-do lists are not created in a random, cosmic manner. The tasks in the to-do lists are thoughtfully ranked in decreasing order of priority; therefore, on top of the list, I include tasks that are urgent.

With time, I have noticed that my to-do-lists cannot go beyond five bullet points in a twenty-four hour period. Beyond five bullet points, the list becomes a source of torture. It is unrealistic. It is too much. I am not Wonder Woman. I am sure that she can tackle fifty-three bullet points in a day, the first of which would obviously be to save the world from the evil forces of darkness. Duh!

If, for some reason, I did not manage to complete the entire list, then the missing item or items are moved over to the next day, to the first positions of the list, forcing me to complete them.

I mostly write my to-do work list in my weekly planner. However, I also find myself writing lists on post-it notes, a phone app appropriately called “Note Everything”, and on random pieces of paper. My lists are mostly work tasks such as proofreading/editing assignments that I need to complete and submit, papers that I have to grade, discussion boards that I need to supervise, or blog posts that I need to write and post in a particular website. J However, my lists also extend to simple things including grocery lists; chore lists; lists detailing birthday or Christmas gifts that I would like to purchase ahead of time for family members and friends; lists of questions that I would like to ask my primary physician on my next visit; and pros and cons lists.

While some people like their to-do lists to begin with numbers, mine begin with bullet points. Sometimes I highlight the bullet points in pink or yellow, to remind myself that something about that task is missing. For example, why have I not been paid for a particular editing service I recently completed?

The part that I like most about to-do lists is crossing each bullet point off as I complete the task. I feel an enormous sense of accomplishment and pride. I feel very productive and that I can conquer the world. I feel, for three nanoseconds, like Wonder Woman.


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