“Hello, my name is Carley and I’m addicted to lists.”
I strive, at all times, to get things out of my head and into a trusted system, so that I can free up my psyche to focus on more important things than, “Buy milk.”
The more enthusiastic you are about list-making, of course, the longer the list gets, and sometimes staring at a looong one is a surefire way to get nothing done. This is why I make smaller, contextual lists. Each one describes a bunch of things I can do in a particular place, or when I have particular resources at my disposal. Because when I’m at grocery store, I can speed-shop if I’ve got a list that ONLY contains grocery items. I can’t type emails or make phone calls there (without crashing my cart, anyway), so I don’t want to see those list items until I’m at my computer or phone.
Having contextual lists helps you hit the ground running when life hands you a few minutes of unexpected free time. All the “what’s the best use of my time right now?” thinking has been done ahead of time, so you can grab the right list and spring into action.
When creating your contextual lists, ask yourself, “What would be the most effective use of my time, given where I am and what tools I have access to?” or, conversely, “What are the things I can’t work on now given where I am and the tools to which I have access?” Create lists like “Calls,” “Errands,” “Follow Up” and “Costco” to keep track of tasks, or create agendas like “Pediatrician” or “Boss” so that the next time you see them, all your questions and agenda items are in one place.
If you already use to-do lists in your work or personal life, think of ways you can break them up into context, so that you can quickly determine what to-do when you have the fleeting free moments to do them. If you don’t use to-do lists, do give them a try!