The Power of Lists

Making lists, and more importantly useful lists is a lifelong process of refinement. To deliver the information you need, when you need it, and to not overwhelm you in the process is a skill that takes time to develop. Afterall, your lists need to be clear and concise.

There are many ways you can create lists, track statuses of each item, and get an at-a-glance idea for how much progress you’ve made. Let’s talk about two main ways to create lists.

Checkboxes

One such technique is using the power of a checkbox. Whether that is a two-state checkbox such as a check indicating the item is complete and an empty box indicating the item is not complete.

You can take this to another level and fill these boxes with color, or partially shade them such as:

  • If a task is completed, it’s colored in.
  • If a task is halfway completed, half of it is colored in diagonally.
  • If a task hasn’t started, the box stays empty.

There is a sense of elegance and effectiveness that using checkboxes can bring to your planning system. Especially on evaluating at-a-glance the status of a project as it further progresses.

The power and importance of checkboxes are simple, yet provide you the satisfaction of crossing things off. This gives you a sense of momentum that isn’t just physical by filling in a checkbox, but also mentally as you start seeing more checkboxes that are dark than empty and helps you progress forward.

Bullet Journaling (BOJO)

Also known as rapid logging, bullet journaling gives you the freedom to create short-form sentences paired with symbols that visually categorize your entries into:

  • (*) Tasks – Things you have to do.
  • (-) Notes – Things you don’t want to forget.
  • (o) Events – Noteworthy moments.

You can mix and match various symbols to indicate the status of each of these items and even come up with symbols that have significance to you. There’s many ways to approach bullet journaling, which a quick Google search can show a few approaches.

Tips for Creating Lists

Within every list, there are more lists. Whether it be a simple grocery list, to a complex system integration list, as a list grows to be more ambitious, so does the amount of nested lists. Lists are meant to tame your thoughts, and thus can be nested infinitely to any level of complexity you’d like. Below is a few tips you can use to create lists in your everyday life.

The Brain Dump

To wrap your head around the scope of whatever you’re building a list for, you start with a brain dump. Here you will list out everything off the top of your head and anything that might be related which will end up on the page. The goal here is to get absolutely everything on paper. This should be known as the quick and dirty stuff. You won’t be creating any type of priority or order for this list. Rather this is just the first step of the process.

The Major Themes

Next, you will take your brain dump and start to create major themes. You can create broad categories that you can now break down respective items into those categories into an outline.

The Sub Categories

With the major themes created, you can now create sub categories that describe these items. You can break each theme into however many sub categories you’d like, but try to stick with 4-5 maximum. This is where the real scale of your project will reveal itself. This will also be the point to where you start to find comfort with the increasing complexity of the project.

Use Lists Carefully

Be careful with lists. You can go on forever by thinking of new things to add to lists, replacing old items with better items, and going down the rabit hole of more and more lists. You will need to find a point that you feel comfortable with the list, so you can focus on beginning to work.

You can create lists for whatever cadence you prefer such as daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. One of the more important lists that most people create is a daily list of the items you aim to accomplish each day. Use either traditional checkboxes, or give BOJO a try to make your day more productive!