The Power In Lists

The Power In ListsIn college I was a resident assistant.  The Housing department took their job (and ours) very seriously.  As a mandatory RA requirement, we were forced to take a 3 hour course on leadership - specifically relating to our jobs.  The course was mainly centered around personal development and the different styles of leadership.  Occasionally, we would perform activities focused on our own communities which was useful, but for the most part, the class was a joke.

I came to realize just how many of the resident assistants surrounding me thought of themselves as some sort of enlightened advisers, sporting 'holier-than-thou', third-level mentalities.  The class concluded with the lesson "Leadership can't be defined, everyone's a leader!"


I don't remember much from that class, but one lingering memory was discussing the importance of making lists.  Back then, I was a 3LM'er, arrogant (more so than now!), and wasted almost my entire college experience rejecting that around me because I thought I knew best!  One day, we were "taught" that making lists improves efficiency by helping us remember things and making them would make us feel good because we could visualize progress every time we crossed on 'to-do' off of the list!  Hearing this, I thought, "You've gotta be kidding me!  This is ridiculous!  Who cares about making lists?"

Perhaps it was my frustrating at having to attend the class, but I remember my statement when asked my opinions on list-making.  I said, "I don't see the point of making lists.  If I need to do something, I'll just do it.  For me, sitting down to make the list is just one more distraction to stop myself from doing what needs to get done!  Instead of writing, I could be acting!"  Now, almost four years later, I find it somewhat ironic that I'm actually discussing the importance of list-making not as a joke, but as a serious topic.

Yes, I admit it now, lists are serious stuff...  As much as I wanted to believe that the entire class was just stroking their egos under the guise of, "I know the secrets no one else knows!", there really was truth in that conversation.

And yes, there was truth in what I said.  Making a list can be just one more distraction.


Power of Lists

But the real reason list-making should hold weight wasn't discussed in that classroom.  There, lists were represented as a tool to help you keep up with what you want/need to do.  In reality, we all know what we want/need to do!  You don't need a list to tell you to do the dishes or to go get gas!  At this point, making a list is just one more thing blocking you from performing the negligible annoyance!

Lists are powerful not because they "make you feel good", but because they bring a sense of accountability to yourself!  In your head, no one knows about it - you can put it off as long as you want making a new excuse every time.  But once it's written down, it becomes physical.  There's power in the physical.  It stares you in the eye, making you feel guilty that you haven't crossed it out yet - after all, you really should have by now!  And what kind of person are you who can't even do the simple tasks the set out to?  What if someone sees it?

When I announced that I was going to obtain an additional 40k of liquid assets this year, despite having a mortgage and a 56.4k salary before taxes (a task most would declare impossible!), I put myself out on a limb.  I made myself accountable!  When I said that I was going to write at least 50 articles of original, quality content, I made myself accountable.  When I announce that I've started business endeavors and have invested money in myself and WILL make a profit, I make myself accountable.  What's physical holds power.  

(Excuse me while I write down a couple of other topics I came up with today that I'd like to discuss in the future.  

...Okay, I'm back.)


You've Got It!  ...Until You Don't

But like me, I'm sure you get stumped every now and again.  In fact, I'm writing this article on a Wednesday night, before bed, because last night I was so stumped creatively that I couldn't write an article at all!  I drafted 5 of them (and got some good speaking points for the future!, but nothing was good enough to release.  The spark just wasn't there.  Tonight that creative flame is back!

When I'm stumped, it's just a temporary phase.  Last night, it was with creativity.  I referred to my lists of topics I want to discuss (to find all of them crossed out!) and couldn't come up with anything inspiring.  Just earlier that day, I had topics to discuss that I was proud of!

If I had only written down something when I had thought of it, I would have had a path to follow and I would have completed my goal of publishing a new article when I regularly do, on a Tuesday!  But, instead, I chose to believe that my inspiration would last forever, forgot what I wanted to say, and fell into mediocrity.

And that's the thing with our brains.  We always think we can do it... until we can't.

But while we can't control when our brains shut off, we can control what we do with our brains when they're on.

When you're on top of it, just make that list.  Clear that mental cache.  You'll find that there's a lot more on your mind than you originally thought!  One idea will lead to another, then another - before too long you'll have an entire page filled and be writing tiny in the little corners that ink hasn't already touched just to get down all of your ideas!  Maybe that space won't even be enough.

What started as a few things will become many.  We're all guilty of it.  Life creeps up on you.  Tasks are more complicated than you originally expected.  There's always something to do and never enough time to do it.

When your list gets unexpectedly lengthy, you'll start to prioritize it.  Either by importance or by how easy the task is to complete (which is what I recommend), you'll see what you need to be focusing on first.  More importantly, you'll get a better idea of how long it will take to complete... and how little time you really have.

I don't think you need a lesson on time management.  If so, there are probably a thousand or more lessons on time-management out there in the great inter webs - go find one!  But regardless of your time-management skills, when you know how much you have to get done, it becomes harder to waste so much time on what isn't important.  At least, for me it is.

THESE are the real reasons why list-making is actually worthwhile.  No ego-fulfilling, ridiculous motivational speech - just an underlying principal to provide a foundation of understanding.


If none of those do it for you then, sure, let's go with my leadership class's lesson.  You won't forget stuff, crossing stuff off a list feels good, and you can share your list of accomplishments headed with "Make a list!  <3" to your favorite social media site!

Okay, that last one they probably didn't talk about (to be fair, if they did there probably would have been a stronger reaction!)


Readers, how do you knock out your to-do's?  Do you let them accumulate until you get motivated or do you keep that mental cache squeaky clean?




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