Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Secret Wisdom of Listmakers, Part One

I am kicking off a new series on To-Do List, called Secret Wisdom of Listmakers. In the past I have focused on the story behind the to-do list, and while I am still fascinated by stories (I love stories), this series will really shine the light on listmaking tricks and tactics that help people get things done and focus on what we most WANT to do. After all, life is just one series of decisions after the next about what to do--whether it's waste another hour on Facebook or go for a sprinting walk around a lake or around the world.

What helps you to get your stuff done? I'm talking big-picture dreams as much as the equally important things like flossing your teeth. To kick off this series, I am sharing an email from a dear Belgian friend Griet who has recently relocated to the
United States and is making up a new life from scratch with the man she fell in love with in Buenos Aires (but who lives in North Carolina). Here are her listmaking reflections. Enjoy. And send me your own personal wisdom (and tips and tricks) gleaned from your lists.

For me a list brings structure in an empty space called "too much time." I arrived in North Carolina during a period of my life when I have an abundance of time. I don't have a job or a social life (yet), and instead of using this beautiful abundance of time in a good way, for example by improving my Spanish, dancing tango, reading Cheri Huber, figuring out what I really want to do for living (all things I was waiting for until "I have time"), I wasted my time by...uh...doing nothing. I turned into a complete passive mode where I don't even get little things done.

So that was the moment I decided to start using a list. And thanks to the list I found my energy back. A list really helps me to focus, to get things done, to move on. But, don't think I finish my list at the end of the day. And please don't think I finish my list at the end of the week. And that made me wonder: What are the things that I pick up from my list, and what are the things that stay on it forever?

I noticed that my list works partially for me. I have on my list three different categories of things:

Category 1: Practical stuff and things that concern the daily "here and now": laundry, answering e-mails, repairing my bike, contacting the bank, cleaning up the house

Category 2: Things that have priority but which I neglected in the past. Here we are mainly talking about doings sports and eating healthy

Category 3: Skills I always wanted to improve: Spanish, ballroom dancing, baking quiches (maybe for starting a business), exploring the idea of a mediation job (also for maybe starting a business)...

So, here is my evaluation of my list.

A list works really well for the daily to do's (laundry and stuff). If you don't get those things done, make a list! Until now I am doing a great job with my list in Category 2. Yes, finally, I reached the point of no longer neglecting my body.

Category 3, the Category of "future projects” (or "the bigger projects in life") is a different story. I am not completely faithful to my list on that level. I am working on my Spanish and I searched for information about mediation studies, but I didn't watch one YouTube video to learn a chachacha and I didn't bake one quiche. Maybe I am not completely convinced that I want to be a dance teacher who brings quiches. That's it I guess. And to come back to my list: the ideas I am not 100 percent convinced of, they just don't work on my list. My list is working as a mirror, as a guide towards my real passions. So my road is more likely to be in the direction of Spanish or a mediation job (who knows? both?) rather than on the road of becoming a dance teacher who brings you quiches.

These are the lessons I learned from my lists:

A) Don't put too many projects on your list. B) Or put them all there and see which ones you work with. If you are really convinced of something, you work with it. And if not you simply...don't.


Millie said...

I think my lists are a lot like Griet's. Everyday tasks often get completed, and weekly/monthly tasks get completed in time, but long-term tasks (usually focussed around bettering myself) often fall to the way side. Which makes me wonder how motivated I really am to do these things!

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