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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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    How to Fight Information Overload

    How to Fight Information Overload

    Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

    This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

    As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

    What you need to do is focus on these 4 steps:

    1. Set your goals.
    2. Decide whether you really need the information.
    3. Consume only the minimal effective dose.
    4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming too much information.

    But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

    The Nature of the Problem

    The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem. This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

    When we see some half-baked blog post we don’t even consider reading it, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it. We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

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    No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on. The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

    That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

    Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control. Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it. But first…

    Why information overload is bad

    It stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here. When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

    Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

    The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

    You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work, or enjoy your passion.

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    So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with your goals.

    1. Set your goals

    If you don’t have your goals put in place you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

    Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

    Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

    Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

    2. What to do when facing new information

    Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

    First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans then skip it. You don’t need it.

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    If it does then it’s time for another question. Will you be able to put this information into action immediately? Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks? Or is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away? If the information is not actionable in a day or two (!) then skip it. (You’ll forget about it anyway.)

    And that’s basically it. Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

    You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant. Self-control comes handy too … it’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future then SKIP IT.

    3. Minimal Effective Dose

    There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour Body,Tim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs. Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

    Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life. Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

    4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming more information

    Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

    This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

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    Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

    In Closing

    As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance. I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over. I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

    Feel free to shoot me a comment below and share your own story of fighting information overload. What are you doing to keep it from sabotaging your life?

    (Photo credit: Businessman with a Lot of Discarded Paper via Shutterstock)

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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