In Praise of Lists

Reasons to Make Lists

– My work swarms with miscellany—large and small.
– Emails, phone calls, meetings, interruptions, text messages and more are all coming at us faster and faster.
– Multitasking [doesn’t actually work](

– If you saw my desk, you’d know lists are as essential as air and water.
– I want to serve coworkers and those outside the office well. Forgetting just doesn’t get me there.
– Even though I’m pretty detail-oriented, I still lose track of tasks.
– With Mark Twain, “Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.”
– What’s better than writing “Make a List” at the top of a page, making the list, and then crossing off “Make a List”?

**Best Ways to Use a List**

– Have a large pad of lined paper at your side all day—or a file open on your computer.
– Review the list at the beginning of each day and prioritize.
– Add to-do’s as you go, one item per line if possible.
– Obviously, you’ll want to mark off each item as it is done. But if you are working on a computer, don’t delete—either line out or move to “done” file for future reference of things done.
– To scan more quickly through a handwritten list, strike through all the completed
line items *vertically*, as well as horizontally. Then as more items are completed, connect the vertical lines. This way you can see more easily where the gaps are in what is not yet finished.
– At the end of the day, take five minutes to review your list; think through whether you need to add anything you missed.
– I admit I’m an old-fashioned pen and paper guy, but lots of online list-making tools are available too, such as [Makealist]( or [Toodledo]( or [Mindjet]({adgroup}&gclid=CITpqO6LoaYCFQTNKgodDCfOog). Some you pay for; some are free. They can allow you to access your list on the web (via computer or smart phone) from wherever you are; you can even print it out, like I would.
– Once your list fills up a page, transfer the last few unfinished items to a new page–and enjoy the satisfaction of filing or discarding the full page.

Author: Andy Le Peau

I've been an editor and writer for over forty years. I am passionate about ideas and how we can express them clearly, beautifully, and persuasively. I love reading good books, talking about them, and recommending them. I thoroughly enjoy my family who help me continue on the path of a lifelong learner.

4 thoughts on “In Praise of Lists”

  1. If I may add one more thought…if something stays unfinished on your list for more than a week (or 2, or 3 depending on the task), reconsider its place on the list. Chances are that it holds no real priority or added value for completion. Either move it to a longer term tracking tool (like outlook tasks) or remove it from the list. If your list gets cluttered with unimportant tasks, it loses its value.

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