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I Hate Lists

By Kathy Gates, Professional Life Coach

List making comes naturally to me. I learned how to spell writing out grocery lists for my mom. She would walk around the kitchen checking to see what we were low on and call out things for me to write on the list. My job was to spell it out as I wrote it, or she would have me sound it out, correcting when necessary. I not only learned how to spell, but the value of that list as well.

But I know a lot of people balk at lists. It makes them feel too rigid, too focused. They want to be creative, flexible, spontaneous. Or as one client said, "I hate lists. Lists just show me how far behind I really am. I don't want to be reminded."

Another client says, "Lists don't work. I make a list, but then none of it gets done." Oh, so it's the lazy list's fault? I see.

And I'll agree - all valid points. But the Real Life bottom line is that list-users tend to be much more efficient than list-avoiders. And because they are more efficient with what they need to do, they therefore have much more guilt-free time to do what they really want to do.

And isn't that *really* the bottom line? Here's some tips to help you make lists work for you:

First and foremost, make sure you have a clear goal for the list. I know it sounds odd, but it's one of the most important things you can do. It's essential to tie it into your motivation; otherwise, as my client indicated above, you may just write it then forget it. Decide -"What's the point of it? What do I want the item or list help me do?

Think of this *specifically*, not just "be more organized". The list might help you stop being embarrassed at your son's soccer game because you were in charge of drinks. It might stop those late fees on the video rentals you hate so much. Make it personal.

Normally, you'll want to keep the keep the list specific - grocery items, weekend projects, or errands to run. If you prefer a Priority Daily List, try dividing a piece of paper into 4 quadrants. Label each one - to buy, to call, to finish, to mail -- whatever fits your lifestyle.

Be sure that there's a clear reason that an item is on the list at all. Is it's really your job to deal with it? Can/should it be delegated to someone else? Is it important to be done at all? Is there a way to combine it with something else to simplify it?

Get creative with your lists. One client of mine hung a giant chalk board in her laundry room near the back door. She divided it into 4 quadrants. To Call, To Do, To Buy, To Go. She used different colors for each quadrant, drew happy or irritated faces, all kinds of things. It was her creative response to a dull task.

You might use different colored papers for different lists, or different colors for work vs. home. Or use "Top 10 to have some fun with it - Top 10 Errands to Run Before Saturday. Top 10 Things To Do In February.

Probably most important of all is that you link your daily/weekly lists to your calendar/schedule. A list without a date/time link, is like a fish out of water, or a car without fuel. It just doesn't work. The lists must fit into the way you live your life, and that is inextricably linked with your schedule.

Directed lists can be a simple, yet powerful tool in your daily happiness. Get listing!

About The Author
Kathy Gates, Professional Life Coach

Real Life Coach - where self improvement meets self acceptance. Life Coach Kathy Gates specializes in focus and motivation, helping you maximize what you already have and focus on a clear path. Want to know how? Visit to learn more about how Life Coaching can help you.

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