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9 Lists To Keep Updated, and Keep Handy

9 Lists To Keep Updated, and Keep Handy

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    I bought a Moleskine notebook a long time ago, and for a while it got zero use. My productivity system is totally digital and Web-based, as is my personal journal. I bought the Moleskine because it looked awesome, and because so many other people found it useful.

    The Moleskine, though, made its way into my pocket or backpack all the time, because of one simple use I found for it: a list manager. Not a list of things to do, or people to call – different lists. The Moleskine is my perfect list-manager, and that’s all I use it for.

    That said, I’ve also discovered how useful it is to keep a small number of lists both updated and handy at all times, for a whole variety of uses. Here are nine lists that can be enormously helpful to all of us, if kept both current and accessible. Keep them wherever you like (for me, a Moleskine), but make sure you keep them.

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    “Things I Want”

    Every year, people I know ask me what I want for my birthday, or for Christmas, or just because they love giving me gifts (that last would would be nice, huh?). Usually, I have no idea what to tell them. That’s why I’ve started keeping a list of things I want – every time I hear about or come across something I’d like to have, no matter how big or small, it goes on my list.

    If I get it, or don’t want it anymore, it goes away. It’s simple, but having this list gives me a running tally of stuff I actually want, so I’m not just telling my family and friends “anything’s great, seriously…” and then pretending to like what I get.

    “Gift Ideas”

    This one’s on the opposite side of gift-giving. If I think of something that would be a great gift for a person I might some day buy a gift, I write down something like “Mom – Rollerblades.” That way, when my Mom’s birthday comes up and I realize I haven’t been paying attention for a whole year, I’ve got some backup ideas. This one, more than all the other lists here, has come in handy over and over in my life.

    “Got a Minute?”

    We all have things that we’d like to do, but that aren’t required of us and that have no consequences whether we do them or not. I keep those things in my “Got a Minute?” list. If I have some free time with absolutely nothing to do, I’ll take a stab at something on my list. If they don’t get done, it’s not a big deal – it’s full of things I’d like to do when there’s nothing better or more important to do.

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    “Watch, Read, Listen”

    Another critical one for me, as a music and movie junkie. If a movie gets suggested to me, or I’m told I absolutely have to hear a particular band, they go on the list. If I have some time, I’ll go through the bands and see if there’s anything good. If I’m in need of another book, I try to pull one from my list rather than just reading whatever’s nearby. These lists are populated by friends, blogs, and any other source you can think of, and they’ve provided me with a ton of great movies, music, and books.

    BHAGs

    BHAGs, or Big Hairy Audacious Goals, are an important thing for anyone to keep updated. These are goals that are way beyond what you think is possible, and are things you’re constantly keeping in mind with every decision or choice you make. For most, these goals are career-based, but they don’t have to be. What do you want to do, or be, or accomplish? Keeping this list handy will help keep you centered and focused in all things you do.

    Bucket List

    We’ve all heard of bucket lists before – lists of things to do before you die. These might overlap with the BHAGs list, but not necessarily. For instance, “spend a night in jail” is proudly on my bucket list, but I wouldn’t exactly call that a goal. Keep a list of things you want to do – need to do before you die, both to help you get them done and to help you figure out what’s important. If “go to New Zealand” is on your bucket list, it’s worth saving for rather than taking a less-awesome trip somewhere else.

    “Don’t Forget”

    This is a list for random, momentary stuff that you need to remember – but not remember forever. Things like “new guy at work is Jim” or “mail taxes” go on this list – review it periodically (I check mine every morning) and get rid of whatever is done or that you actually know. Hopefully, after a week, you’ll remember Jim’s name, and not need it on the list anymore.

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    Great Ideas

    Have a great idea for a business? Thought of a brilliant invention? Write it down. Maybe you won’t do anything with it, maybe you will – either way, having a list of your best ideas is a great way to both stimulate more great ideas, and to give you something to impress the boss with the next time he needs someone with great ideas.

    Grocery List

    Obvious though it may sound, too many people still don’t keep a grocery list. Or, like me, they keep one and then leave it at home. The usefulness of an always-available and always-updated grocery list is twofold: one, it gives you a place to put “Orange Juice” when you run out of Orange Juice, thus keeping you from either not having it, or buying altogether too much because you couldn’t remember how much you have at home.

    Two, it prevents you from buying things on impulse, or because you’re hungry – grocery shopping while hungry is dangerous. Keep a list, buy only the things on the list, and odds are you’ll eat both healthier and cheaper.

    I’m a listing fanatic, keeping lists that far outnumber just the ones above. But those nine are the ones that have proven critical to saving me money, keeping me fresh with good ideas, and always knowing what to do or spend my money on in relation to what I want to be and do.

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    What are your indispensable lists?

    Photo: retro traveler

    Featured photo credit: elias filis via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on May 22, 2019

    The Pomodoro Technique: Is It Right for You to Boost Productivity?

    The Pomodoro Technique: Is It Right for You to Boost Productivity?

    If you spend any time at all researching life hacks, you’ve probably heard of the famous Pomodoro Technique.

    Created in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is one of the more popular time management life hacks used today. But this method isn’t for everyone, and for every person who is a passionate adherent of the system, there is another person who is critical of the results.

    Is the Pomodoro Technique right for you? It’s a matter of personal preference. But if you are curious about the benefits of using the technique, this article will break down the basic information you will need to decide if this technique is worth trying out.

    What is the Pomodoro Technique?

    The Pomodoro Technique is a time management philosophy that aims to provide the user with maximum focus and creative freshness, thereby allowing them to complete projects faster with less mental fatigue.

    The process is simple:

    For every project throughout the day, you budget your time into short increments and take breaks periodically.

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    You work for 25 minutes, then take break for five minutes.

    Each 25-minute work period is called a “pomodoro”, named after the Italian word for tomato. Francesco Cirillo used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato as his personal timer, and thus the method’s name.

    After four “pomodoros” have passed, (100 minutes of work time with 15 minutes of break time) you then take a 15-20 minute break.

    Every time you finish a pomodoro, you mark your progress with an “X”, and note the number of times you had the impulse to procrastinate or switch gears to work on another task for each 25-minute chunk of time.

    How the Pomodoro Technique boosts your productivity

    Frequent breaks keep your mind fresh and focused. According to the official Pomodoro website, the system is easy to use and you will see results very quickly:

    “You will probably begin to notice a difference in your work or study process within a day or two. True mastery of the technique takes from seven to twenty days of constant use.”

    If you have a large and varied to-do list, using the Pomodoro Technique can help you crank through projects faster by forcing you to adhere to strict timing.

    Watching the timer wind down can spur you to wrap up your current task more quickly, and spreading a task over two or three pomodoros can keep you from getting frustrated.

    The constant timing of your activities makes you more accountable for your tasks and minimizes the time you spend procrastinating.

    You’ll grow to “respect the tomato”, and that can help you to better handle your workload.

    Successful people who love it

    Steven Sande of The Unofficial Apple Weblog is a fan of the system, and has compiled a great list of Apple-compatible Pomodoro tools.

    Before he started using the technique, he said,

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    “Sometimes I couldn’t figure out how to organize a single day in my calendar, simply because I would jump around to all sorts of projects and never get even one of them accomplished.”

    Another proponent of the Pomodoro Technique is Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal. Shellenbarger tried out this system along with several other similar methods for time management, and said,

    “It eased my anxiety over the passing of time and also made me more efficient; refreshed by breaks, for example, I halved the total time required to fact-check a column.”

    Any cons for the Pomodoro Technique?

    Despite the number of Pomodoro-heads out there, the system isn’t without its critics. Colin T. Miller, a Yahoo! employee and blogger, tried using the Pomodoro Technique and had some issues:[1]

    “Pomodoros are an all or nothing affair. Either you work for 25 minutes straight to mark your X or you don’t complete a pomodoro. Since marking that X is the measurable sign of progress, you start to shy away from engaging in an activity if it won’t result in an X. For instance…meetings get in the way of pomodoros. Say I have a meeting set for 4:30pm. It is currently 4:10pm, meaning I only have 20 minutes between now and the meeting…In these instances I tend to not start a pomodoro because I won’t have enough time to complete it anyway.”

    Another critic is Mario Fusco, who argues that the Pomodoro Technique is…well…sort of ridiculous:[2]

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    “Aren’t we really able to keep ourselves concentrated without a timer ticketing on our desk?… Have you ever seen a civil engineer using a timer to keep his concentration while working on his projects?… I think that, like any other serious professional, I can stay concentrated on what I am doing for hours… Bring back your timer to your kitchen and start working in a more professional and effective way.”

    Conclusion

    One of the best things about the Pomodoro Technique is that it’s free. Yeah, you can fork over some bills to get a tomato-shaped timer if you want… or you can use any timer program on your computer or phone. So even if you try it and hate it, you haven’t lost any cash.

    The process isn’t ideal for every person, or in any line of work. But if you need a systematic way to tackle your daily to-do list, the Pomodoro Technique may fit your needs.

    If you want to learn more about the Pomodoro Technique, check out this article: How to Make the Pomodoro Technique More Productive

    Reference

    [1] Aspirations of a Software Developer: A Month of the Pomodoro Technique
    [2] InfoQ: A Critique of the Pomodoro Technique

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