I wasn’t always a list-maker. For most of my life I’ve been more of a scraps-of-paper-notes-everywhere-and-5-unfinished-journals-at-a-time type of gal. But after researching and interviewing some of today’s most successful people last year, I’ve realized organization is a fundamental key to success. It’s also not just office organization or systems and processes, it’s organization of one’s entire day, entire week, entire life. Successful, satisfied, happy people have multiple ongoing lists that are prioritized and edited regularly.
If you are like I was, surrounded by post its and ready for change, here are some lists to get you started. Now, the notes app on my iPhone is filled with lists. No matter how you record and store them, consider adding lists to your plan to dominate 2016.
1. Your Essential Priorities
This is a lesson I learned after sitting down with Chalene Johnson, we need a list to guide all lists. Many times we focus on goals for our career or our health, forgetting the many other areas of our life. What is really most important to you overall? If you were to look back 5 years from now, what will you hope you spent the most time and energy on? Most of the items on this list won’t change much, but after a job loss or an injury, “additional income” or “knee rehab” might be added to this list temporarily. Make a priorities list to guide you through the rest of these lists.
2. Big Life Dreams
Often, we don’t achieve greatness in life because our goals are flat out uninspiring. Paying off debt, losing ten pounds, taking a vacation, these are all great, but do they pump you up for the next year? Will they keep you pushing on when times get tough? Probably not. Take time to envision your dream life in the next year, five year, ten years, if all of your dreams came true, what would life look like? This is another list to guide your subsequent lists, because if it doesn’t line up with your dream life, why bother?
3. Books to Read
Many of us admit we want to read more, but according to a recent survey, more than a quarter of Americans have not cracked open a book—either print or digital—in the past year. I suspect one reason we never reach this goal is that we only think “I want to read more this year!” without writing out a list of books, or considering where and when we can add in time to read. Not sure about which books to read? Consider your big life dreams, what books will help get you there fastest? Also, here’s a great list to get you started.
4. New Things to Try
According to behavioral therapist Andrea Kuszewski, new experiences trigger the release of dopamine, motivating us, which in turn leads to neurogenesis, or the creation of new neurons and new neural connections. Restaurants, hobbies, recipes, you could build this list into multiple sub-lists. Come March, we run out of steam on our goals, fall into old habits, or simply get bored. Get creative and pull up this list when you feel like you’re stuck in a life rut.
5. Places to Visit
It has happened to all of us, we see a scene in a movie or read a passage in a book, about a particular place, and something stirs in our soul. Take a moment and jot it down. You can also add more abstract, and possibly attainable places, for example “sky scraper restaurant” instead of a specific rooftop spot in New York City.
6. Work Next Steps
Your Big Life Dreams list probably includes landing a coveted title at work, becoming a leader in your field, or starting your own business. Those goals might be six months or six years away, what do you need to do this week? This month? Lists are nothing without action, decide what you can DO, and do soon.
7. Things to Update
You have finally had it at your job, and your resume is two years old. You lose a big client and the testimonials on your website haven’t been touched since you launched your business a few years ago. You’re kicking yourself. We’ve all been there, but to prevent this we need a running list to remind us; update headshot, resume, online portfolio, LinkedIn profile, etc.
8. Conferences to Attend
Despite the advances in video conferencing, there is something magical that happens in person. That’s why I choose to go and interview guests for my show in person, even though skype would be easier and cheaper. Conferences and seminars not only take you out of your norm, they spark conversations, connect you with like-minded individuals, and if they’re worth the ticket price, inspire and motivate you. Take note of which conferences leave your colleagues on a post-event-high and consider adding those to your list for the following year.
9. Random Ideas
This list is solid gold. It could be silly stuff that you jot down after two too many cocktails, or inventions that end up changing entire industries. When inspiration strikes, don’t let it go! Write down your ideas ASAP and refer back often to see what has stuck with you. Jeremy Cowart, celebrity photographer and creative ideator, gives a new idea two months and if he still loves it then he’ll pursue it. (Most don’t make it that long).
10. People to Connect With
Who are the leaders in your industry you’d love to buy coffee? Who is speaking at conferences where you can buy a VIP dinner with them? Who would be a great person to collaborate with someday? Who would you hire as a mentor as soon as you could afford it? John Lee Dumas, founder of Entrepreneur on Fire, which brings in over $250,000 a month, attributes his massive success to investing in a mentor, and that might be the tipping point for you someday soon. Jot it down and consider how and when you can make the connections happen.
11. Things You’ve Accomplished
Like most list-lovers, I am driven and passionate. Many times my drive for future goals leaves me feeling depleted, like I have so much yet to do. Only recently have I discovered the power in jotting down what I have accomplished. It restores hope, it reenergizes dreams and sparks new ideas. Try it weekly or monthly!
12. Quick Tasks
Have ten minutes to spare? You could wipe down your countertops, clean out the trash folder on your computer, or any other number of lingering quick tasks. This list is best for those small things that add up and end up taking hours later if we don’t tackle a little bit each week, like sorting snail mail or organizing your email inbox.
13. To-Do Eventually
Reorganizing your hall closet is not a high priority task, but once a month when you have to dig through it and find yourself wanting to kill someone, it matters. If you find yourself with a plan-free Saturday, knock off a few items on this list.
14. Things to Buy for Yourself
Like organizing the hall closet, buying a new end table is not something that needs to be done immediately. When you get a bonus you may be temped to buy the new shiny distraction, and having this list will remind you how annoying the wobbly leg on your end table was at your holiday party and equip you to best decide what to spend that bonus on.
15. Gift Ideas
Having just survived through, er, I mean enjoyed, the holidays, you feel me on this one. You see the perfect holiday scarf for your sister in May. You find a perfect gift idea for your dad, but you’ve long forgotten it four months later when his birthday looms. “What was that thing I saw?!” Never again. Jot it down and thank yourself later.
16. Things You No Longer Do
This list can be powerful. You can make this a list of bad habits you’re killing, and writing it in the present tense makes each item a mantra for success. I no longer drink coke. I do not use my phone during family dinner. I have given up sugar for good. Give it a try and see the results.
17. What You’re Grateful For
Another powerful list. There are daily journals built around the power of gratitude, and many daily planners now have a spot for this reflection each day. Feeling #blessed? Write it all out. Feeling blue? Review this list when you are feeling down.
18. Creative Outlets
Creativity is something successful people practice regularly. In today’s fast-paced achievement-focused culture, we can forget that we even have hobbies and interests outside of our work. Grabbing your camera, charcoals, or golf clubs can be as therapeutic as exercise. Have a list of lingering projects and ideas for rainy days when you’re needing inspiration, or inspired days when you need an outlet for all of your creative juices.
19. Brain Dump List
If you have no lists, you might want to start with this one. You feel the weight of ten unfinished projects and multiple creative ideas, not even started yet. You’re behind on the lists you do have. Just dump it all out in one sitting, then go back to prioritize and sort. You will feel so much better.
20. Fitness Milestones
When you think about your Big Life Dreams, you probably envision yourself fit and full of energy. That’s not going to happen unless you make health and fitness a habit. Just like you need next steps for your work to get to launching a business, you need to take steps to get to your marathon-running future self. Start with a 5k, giving up chocolate, buying all organic, etc.
21. Financial Milestones
Same as above. You don’t go from debt collectors to debt free overnight. Create a list of steps to get there, for example, Set Budget, Pay Off Visa, Get Student Loan Total Down to $X, etc.