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The Power of Lists

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  • The Power of Lists

    The power in a list

    Had a bit of higher altitude thinking which Iíd like to share Ė hope you find it useful.

    I have a number of mundane but important household tasks to carry out in the evenings. I used to spread these out either side of the childrenís bedtime and experienced significant stress and procrastination in Getting (these) Things Done.

    I would fit them in around other activities such as making tea, washing up and getting the children to bed but used to get increasingly stressed if I didnít get everything done. Once the children were in bed I was so tired and lacking in motivation that I often didnít finish the remaining tasks even though I knew they would only take me 20 minutes in total.

    My great breakthrough was to write this list of activities down and organise it into context. I then started to use this as a checklist. Immediately I felt a difference Ė I got a sense of achievement from finishing each task, completing all the tasks in any one context and finishing the whole list. I now actually look forward know to spending half an hour immediately after the children are in bed and completing the tasks. More often than not I donít even refer to the list (or physically tick things off) anymore but the sense of completion is still there.

    I have extended this to a Morning List, a First Thing at Work List and even a Get Back On Track list (which is basically the 5 phases of workflow) for times when I procrastinate.

    DA talks about checklists in the GtD Book but I didnít truly realise the power until now. It is not so much the fact that these tasks now get done every day (which in itself makes me feel good) but the fact that I now enjoy doing something that I used to frequently put off.

    If your interested the rather mundane evening list follows:-

    Clean toilet handle & seat
    Clean sink
    Clean bin lid
    Check boiler
    Empty bin if needed
    Finish washing up
    Clean sink
    Empty bin if needed
    Clean bin lid
    Sweep floor if needed
    Change dish towels if needed
    Put milk bottles out
    Tidy & wipe surfaces
    Take laundry out if needed
    Take any glasses out
    Put Guinea Pig in hutch
    Bring drying in if needed

  • #2
    I use all kinds of checklists. The more I use them, the more lists I can think of developing. I completely concur that they are powerful tools in getting things done. I also have had the experience that I don't even need to look at my evening routine list. The items on my list have simply grown into habits, but it is still comforting to know that I can glance at my lists to make sure I didn't miss anything. That doesn't necessarily mean that everything gets done all the time, but I always have a bookmark to pick right up wherever I left off. I frequently see other people discussing their checklists in this forum or on the GTD listservs and then get an idea to add a new one. As I have grown more comfortable with using checklists, I have been much more relaxed and able to focus more in the present.


    • #3
      Glad these points are being made. Checklists really do allow you to zoom through a series of actions that might otherwise require multiple evaluations and decisions (do it now? do it later? do it at all?). They also prove that a seemingly endless string of chores is, in fact, limited, and keep you from straying to other things if you tend toward distraction. At least that's what I've found. They seem worth the investment in front-end focus in getting them created, and I'm finding that even small routines created amid the chaos of too many projects can lead to greater order and more doneness. When they're followed, anyway.

      I bet that guinea pig isn't happy that he's now reliably stowed in his hutch each night, though.


      • #4
        A great resource for establishing household routines and checklists is Flyldady. The web site is and she also has a book called Sink Reflections. It blends well with the whole GTD approach.

        I've found that I've naturally started to create similar routines/checklists for work. There are daily routines to get the minutia on autopilot, but we have many projects that we do annually or a few times a year....we are finding that it is very helpful to write down our process as we go for future reference. It doesn't need to be a manual - just a quick, high level check list while everything is still top of mind.


        • #5
          Being a Palm user, and Bonsai user, I created an event called "Daily Routines" that repeats daily, linked a Bonsai list with a top level item called the same and created lists for AM at home, AM at office, PM at office, etc... Then I can refer to it as often as I get a chance. Check marks keep me up to date with items that I did and didn't complete.



          • #6
            Thanks for pointing this out! Based on this thread I put a Checklist "task" first on each @list. So the top item on the @computer list in the Palm's Tasks app says "Checklist" with a memo attachment of recurring items like "Check email," "Sync Treo," or "Practice typing." Checklist items get priority before venturing off into non-recurring NAs. It's amazing how much unnecessary rethinking is spent on routine tasks.