“I can’t find that list I created” is a common problem that occurs if you’re a list maker. Often, we create a lot of lists and when we can’t find them, we end up creating similar or duplicate lists. It doesn’t matter if all the lists are kept in the same place, we still end up with duplicate lists because it becomes painful to go through each list just to find the thing that we are afte. The technique is to Categorize; add a Convention and Flag your lists. This mini toolbox of tricks should be usable on any app. Here’s the simple trick I use -

Categorize Your Lists

Whenever I create a list, I always put it into a category. This makes it easy to identify what the list is about, whether it’s a movie list, a book list, web articles to read, shopping list or a bucket list. It’s important to ensure that you consistently use the same categories for the types of lists that you create.

Why would you want to do this? An example for myself is movies. I list out all the movies I would like to watch into different genres and sometimes into different years. Why not create a sublist? The issue is that they are not always searchable, some apps don’t search in your sublists and since this technique can be applied across all apps, it means you don’t have to be stuck to using any specific tool. That means if you change tools, you can still use this technique.

Create a Naming Convention

It’s important to be consistent about how you name your lists, it makes them easier to sort through and easier to search. So now that you have thought up some categories, when you create you lists put them in square brackets. e.g. [Movies] Comedies 2010. You instantly know that this list is about movies and comedies. You don’t have to use square brackets, you can use any identifier you want e.g. {Movies} or <Movies> or !Movies! anything that makes it easier for you to see.

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From the above example, you can see I’ve categorized my lists with Movie, Shopping, Books, People, Christmas, New year, Recipes, Videos etc. It’s easy for me to identify what the main purpose of the list is for.

Search Becomes Easier

Search becomes a lot easier. Can’t remember what you called the list? Well you should be able to remember the category, so if I’m looking for a recipe, but can’t remember the name of the recipe, and also can’t remember the name of the list I put it in, then I can search for the category. Now I have some clues which should help me to remember which list it is in, or at least it will reduce the amount of searching I have to do to find that recipe.

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I can select the appropriate list that the recipe would be under. I’m demonstrating this using Listible, but this technique should work in any list app.

Flagging Important Lists

If you use lists to prioritize what you want to accomplish, you can use advanced identifiers. For example you can place an asterix hash (*#) in front of the list name. This makes it easier to see visually, and also easy to search for the ‘important tasks that need to be accomplished.

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These techniques work on file based lists, so even if you are keeping your lists on your mac or windows pc inside word documents or spreadsheets, using this technique will still make it easier to know what your lists are about, how important they are, and makes them easily searchable. So remember, the technique is to Categorize, to Convention and to Flag your list names.

Want to know more about list? Here's a related article for you: The Complete Guide to List and To-Do Apps

Featured photo credit: Multiple rows of filing cabinets in an office or medical establishmen via Shutterstock

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