And now for something really original…a list of lists! Just when you thought you had seen or heard of every list imaginable and received every bit of advice you could from lists and the people who construct them, I’ve got one more for you.
I am a big believer in lists. I use them as memory tools, especially as I get older. I use them to help keep me organized. I use them to keep my priorities straight.
I thought it might be fun to list my favorites. You get to decide if it was fun to read through them. Here are my top ten in no particular order.
To Do List
This is arguably the best-known list of all time and for good reason. I prefer to construct one daily. For really busy days, I will draw one up the night before so that I give myself a chance to sleep a little better knowing that I at least have a handle on what I need to do when I wake up.
The value of a to do list is virtually limitless because you can apply it to your work or at home. It can be as detailed as you like or just cover the highlights. Besides the more obvious benefits, such as the organization and structure that a well written to do list can add to your day, it can assist you in other ways as well.
I always feel a sense of accomplishment when I complete something on my to do list and, as I am fond of saying, there are few joys greater in life than crossing something off of your to do list.
Yet To Do List
This is more commonly known as a bucket list, but I think that sounds kind of morbid and I try not to be a cliché guy.
This is a broader list and probably one that you do not add to or delete from very often. I love this list because it often forms the basis for happy thoughts and grand dreams. I like to remind myself that there are always sights to see, people to meet, and new things to experience, and this list is a great reminder of those things.
Believe it or not, I enjoy grocery shopping. I generally do the grocery shopping for our family and this list helps me to be efficient and, to a certain extent, contain cost.
When I shop for our family, I try to do so once a week. That means the pressure is on for me to remember everything for all meals for the next several days. My enjoyment would evaporate quickly if I was stressed about the task. My grocery list keeps me on point, so I remember what we need, and I am not as tempted to stray from the list and buy a bunch of things we don’t need.
If you are not a big grocery shopper, then you can adapt this list for your own shopping habits. Maybe you are a big do-it-yourself weekend warrior and you spend a lot of time at your local hardware store. If so, a list like this is going to come in handy.
If you’ve read this far, you might be thinking that my list of lists is pretty mundane. Please keep reading.
List of Accomplishments
In my mind, I invented this list.
In my desk drawer, I keep a list of the ten things that I have done in my life of which I am most proud. This is not an ego thing. It is a source of inspiration for me on a tough day. It is a great reminder that I have had some wonderful experiences and I need that reminder the most when I have a day when I feel as though I don’t know anything, and I am not doing anything right.
This list helps to keep me focused on the things that are most important and determined to move forward with the intent of adding accomplishments to my list.
Daily Reflection List
I replay every day at the end of that day. Good or bad, work day or vacation day, I take a few moments and reflect on what the day entailed and my role in it.
My reflections involve a lot of questions, such as what did I learn and whether I found something to laugh about? The exercise is meant to help me make sure that I got the most out of that day and to help me continue to move forward with purpose so that I extract as much as I can from the next day as well.
If you ever feel that your daily demands take you away from what matters most to you in life, this is a great checkpoint. If your reflection isn’t heavy on the amount of time you spent on things that you enjoy and that help you achieve fulfillment, you have a chance to think about why and then set out to get a little closer to those things tomorrow.
Assets and Liabilities List
About once every three months, I draw up a list of assets and liabilities. If you are not in the practice of doing this, I highly recommend that you start.
Financial health is a vital component of your overall peace of mind and a big part of your financial health is derived from how engaged you are in the management of your personal finances. If you have a solid understanding of what you have accumulated (your assets) and what you owe (your liabilities), you have taken the most important step toward making informed decisions about your finances.
Financial health is not exclusively a derivative of wealth. It is, more importantly, a derivative of your own understanding of what you have, what you owe, and what you are going to do increase what you have and decrease what you owe.
This is the only list on my list that does not include the word list in the title, but it is nevertheless a list. I use this list when I am going to make a speech, organize a soccer practice, or even if I want to have a conversation starter in my pocket when I am about to meet someone for the first time.
Over time, I have found that I do not need to write down every word of a speech before I make it to deliver it effectively. I just need to make sure that I have some organization to my thoughts and that I don’t forget the key topics, and this is where the use of discussion points is helpful. Similarly, I don’t want to be on the soccer field trying to come up with the next drill on the spot while a dozen 12-year old girls are screaming at me. I have gotten a lot of use out of jotting down a short list of drills and games before each practice, so I have a reference point as we go.
For meetings, it is always helpful to have an outline of the main points I hope to cover, especially if I am meeting someone or a group of people for the first time and I am not sure how it will go or what to expect.
So far, I’ve gone heavy on the types of lists that help me to stay organized or otherwise on track. Let’s finish with a few that are a little more fun.
Top 5 Favorites List
You can insert any number here, there is nothing magic about five. It also doesn’t have to be about your favorites. You can substitute words like Greatest instead.
I include this list and use the number five because I have developed this one in response to questions from my kids over the years. As they have grown up they have asked me about my times and experiences and often want to know, what my favorite (moment, trip, dinner, etc.) has been. I usually struggle to narrow the answer to one favorite, so I have gotten into the habit of giving them my top five.
A list like this is also a good way to start an impromptu conversation with co-workers and friends. What are your top five favorite movies, books, songs, or television shows? These questions can lead to a fun discussion and help you to get to know people a little better.
Desert Island/Dinner Party List
These are actually two different lists that serve roughly the same purpose. The desert island list involves the few things that would be essential to you if you were stranded on a deserted island. You can decide how to limit the number of items and what is not allowed.
The dinner party list is the six people (alive or dead) that you have not met and would invite to a dinner party if you had the chance. I used to ask this question during interviews thinking that it would be a good way to ask a question that the interviewee had not anticipated and to gain insight into that person’s values and heroes.
Whether you make these lists for yourself or you are asking others what would be on their list, it can be fun to talk about these topics and you may learn something from your answers or from the answers of your friends and colleagues.
I am going to finish strong here and go with the old standby. Feel free to insert any holiday at the front of the list. The point is that it is your wish list for whatever occasion you want to apply it to.
Just remember to also make the list of the wishes you hope to fulfill for others, the gifts and experiences that you will give and share.
There you go. I hope that you enjoyed reading the lists as much as I enjoyed writing about them, but I’ve got to go. Now that I have written this article, I must make a new list of ideas for possible future articles.
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.