5 Reasons I Love Lists

List with Pencil

Just 5 Things came about because I love lists. Five is a bit of a random number, but it’s a great one because it elegantly coincides with holding one hand up to count things. It’s more robust than three things, and less fussy than 10 (I personally hate top 10 lists in general). But I love lists and will continue to make them until the day I die (which hopefully won’t be anytime soon). Why do I love lists? Let me count the (five) ways:

  1. Organizing my thoughts. When I have a bunch of things swimming around in my head, making a list always helps me sort them out. I can see in one easy place what needs to be done, what can be grouped together, what is urgent, and what can be done later. I can decide if I want to do the group of errands, or the writing, or the fun. My brain doesn’t have to store the information because I wrote it down.
  1. Prioritizing. I can see what is urgent. Sometimes the most urgent thing is washing the dishes. Other times it’s getting groceries. But usually, it’s writing. It may be the third or fourth or eighth thing I write down, but I can do it first once I see how it stacks up to the rest of the list.
  1. They’re quick and easy. Making these lists takes all of five minutes (you see how I love the number five?). And they’re never done. I may make a list that has four things on it, then do a couple, then realize a couple of other things I forgot to write down and add them. I don’t have to make a new list if I don’t want to. But ultimately, I haven’t spent lots of time and trouble poring over what should be on the list. I just wrote it down and got started.
  1. They measure progress. There is no greater joy than seeing how a list changes from week to week. One week, I may write down “brainstorm novella idea.” The next week it becomes “outline novella.” Then it becomes “Write Chapter 1,” and before I know it, I’m writing down “edit first draft.” It feels good not to write the same thing over and over again, and when I find that happening, I take a hard look at my goals and motivations to see if this is something I truly want. If it is, I do that first, before anything else so I can write something new the next time. I call this eating the frog (doing the most difficult thing first), but I don’t remember where I got that expression. Eating the frog motivates me. I do it once, then move on to eating cake.
  1. Crossing things off. Okay, I lied. There is no greater joy than crossing things off the list. I love seeing a list of things with lines through them at the end of a day, weekend, or week. Or month or year for that matter. Each line is a small (or BIG!) victory, and a lesson in productivity. Sometimes I get to the end of a day that didn’t feel all that productive, and I take a look at the list. What felt like ‘doing nothing’ was watering the plants, writing a blog post, catching up on Game of Thrones, washing the dishes, buying a birthday card, paying bills, doing laundry, reading, showering, exercising, and taking the dog for a walk. We may not feel like we’re doing things a lot of the time, but lists can show us what we do so we can be proud of what we accomplish every day.

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