Like a lot of productivity geeks, I love lists. Lists are what keep us sane during those crazy project filled days (or keep us from doing any real work). Just google “make a list for productivity” and check out the results.
One thing I’ve found interesting is that most folks tend to fall into 4 distinct types of list makers. Now, like most type profiles, there is some overlap, and some have more than one. But a few months back, I began keeping an eye on how different people make lists. What I found is that the real productivity boost comes from identifying what type of list you prefer, and using it to your advantage.
For example, I know a lot of people who love mind-mapping. But I hate it. I know, that’s blasphemy to some, but it just doesn’t work for me. I’ve struggled for years to make it work. As an artist, it just made sense that mind-mapping would be my preferred way of capturing information. Conversely, I worked with a very detailed, analytic type guy who loved mind-mapping. Every other area of his life was very rigid and straight-laced. But when he made notes, his mind-maps were a thing of beauty. Controlled chaos you might say.
So I began taking a look at how different people make lists, and how they fall into 4 broad categories – lister, mapper, clumper, and jotter. Now keep in mind, there is nothing scientific about this. It’s based solely on my own observations. But every person I’ve worked with and applied a list type to found that it fit them – and that they had always been that way.
The most common type is the straight list down the page – the lister. Bullets or checkboxes may vary, but listers usually prefer an orderly grocery-list style.
Mind-maps are a very popular style of capturing and organizing information. Some strict mind-mappers wouldn’t even consider them a list. But the basic elements are there – organized information, put in a format to easy digest.
Similar to a map style, a clumper tends to put info all over the page, with specific groupings. Notes on one topic in one area, to-dos in another, but all set out in clearly defined “clumps” throughout the page.
Jotters tend to just throw info on a page in no easily discernible order. But being a jotter myself, I know that there is some order to the randomness (a paradox, you could say). Jotters like the undefined structure, which allows for lots of different types of information to be captured at once.
Which type best fits you? Do you have a list style that you’ve had most of your life, or have you grown and changed over the years? Just like any type exercise, knowing the basic archetype of our habits and work-style is extremely valuable in helping us be more productive. By learning something as simple as how you prefer to make lists, you can save a bunch of time messing around with things that don’t work. Then the next time some smart-ass says “you know, you really should mind-map your notes,” you can tell them “no, thanks, I’m a clumper.” Then don’t tell them what it means. Because a confused smart-ass is a fun thing to watch.
Tony D. Clark writes, draws cartoons, designs software and websites, and spends a lot of time talking others into working from home, being creative, and doing what they love. His blog Success from the Nest focuses on helping parents who want to do meaningful work from home and have more time for their families, and their dreams.