When getting and staying organized, lists can be a lifesaver. Not only do they tell you what you need to get done, they tell you what you’ve already accomplished, and make it so much easier to keep track of things! I embraced lists long before I embraced every other part of my organized lifestyle, and I still find them so valuable to this day.
There are so many reasons why I love lists, but here are the top three that I want to share with you today.
Reason #1: Lists clear your mind.
Now, if you’ve been following the blog regularly, you know that recently I talked about how clearing away physical clutter in your life can clear your mind. (Clear the Clutter, Clear Your Mind). Lists are one of the best ways to clear out the mental clutter you may be holding onto as well! If you go through your day and try to remember that you used the last of the cereal that morning, need to run to the bank at your lunch break, thought of a great Christmas gift idea for your in-laws (when it’s months away!), and wanted to make sure to talk to your husband about something important after dinner that evening, there’s a good chance that something is going to be forgotten as you get busy with your day – especially as the noise and constant requests from your kids start up! But if you make a habit to write it down as you think of it, you can breathe easy knowing that those important things won’t get lost in the noise of your life. You don’t have to waste a lot of mental energy trying to keep that item top of mind and instead can focus and be more productive on whatever needs to be done now.
So what if something pops up in the middle of your day and you don’t have the list you need handy to add it to? (For example, say you keep your grocery list at home, and you forgot to add cereal to it before you left for work). The best solution I have for that is to send myself an e-mail (easy to do since I always have my smartphone available nearby). I send myself e-mails all the time. If there’s something I want to remember to do at work, I send a quick reminder e-mail to my work account. If there’s something I want to do at home, I’ll send myself an e-mail to my personal address. Then when I’m tackling email for the day I find those reminders waiting for me. Quick, simple, and (mostly) foolproof!
Reason #2: Getting to cross an item off a list gives you a sense of accomplishment.
I know some people think it is silly to write something down just to cross it off later, and I definitely don’t believe in adding things that I’ve already accomplished to my list just to cross it off and make myself feel better about what I’ve done that day. But if I had a previously written out list of things do to and complete something on it, I get a huge sense of accomplishment by crossing that item off the list and being able to physically see that it’s been taken care of. This can also help keep you motivated on days that you might feel like you haven’t gotten a lot done. Instead, you can look back at your list, see everything that is crossed off and feel good knowing that you did indeed accomplish something!
Reason #3: Lists keep you organized.
By the very nature of creating lists, you are staying more organized. But you have to keep lists by category in order for this to be most effective, instead of just having one giant “to-do”. I have lists for everything! Some of my many lists: grocery, household items to buy (like Target or Home Depot), lunch errands, Christmas gifts to purchase for others, Christmas cards, household to-dos, daily/weekly chores/activities, etc.
So how do you organize all these lists? You need to find a system that makes most sense for each type of list you create. Our ‘grocery list’ sits in a centralized area in the home so that way all family members can contribute to it. (You can learn more about my grocery list organization here). The ‘household items to buy’ and ‘household items to do’ lists are also paper lists and they stay right next to the grocery list. My ‘lunch time errands’ list is also on paper and sits on top of any letters to be mailed, checks to cash, items to return to a store, etc. This way I can grab it each morning when I head out the door to work. It then spends the day on the passenger seat of my vehicle so I can reference it when I head out to lunch. I cross off what I’m able to do in a lunch hour, and save the rest for a lunch later in the week.
For my own personal life goals (for example – daily exercise, posting to this blog, my daily French lesson, etc.), I have an electronic list in my iPhone that only I access. With this app I’m able to set recurring reminders for each task (daily for some, every other day for others, weekly or biweekly for others yet). This can take some time to set up, but once done it runs on autopilot, reminding me each day at 7 AM of the things I want to do that day. I can easily see which tasks are due and which are coming up in case I have extra time and want to work ahead. Once I tap on an item to say that it’s completed, it automatically refreshes to the next due date.
Finally, for projects further out in the future (such as Christmas gifts and Christmas cards), I use a digital organizing system called Evernote. Evernote is an app with both a paid and free version. (I use the free version and it has so many features that I don’t feel I’m missing out on anything). It syncs to my iPhone, iPad and PC so that way I’m able to update a list anytime I think of something that needs to be changed. For example, a few years ago we were spending 4th of July weekend up at our camp with my in-laws. During dinner one night, my mother-in-law remarked that she needed to get new steak knives for the camp. After dinner I grabbed my phone and added steak knives to my Christmas shopping list in Evernote. This way I won’t have to search for ideas frantically in December when the clock is ticking down to Christmas, and I won’t have to try and use any mental energy to remember steak knives for the next 6 months.
These are just three of the many reasons that I love using lists – they have been hugely beneficial in getting me organized and keeping me sane! If you aren’t a list user, it’s my hope that you will give it a try and experience the positive difference it can make in your life. If you are already a list user, let me know how you use them in the comments below. I’d love to learn a new, unique use for lists that I may not have thought of yet!
All the best,