Ah, yes, the humble list. People tend to love the list or hate the list, but as tools go it’s pretty extraordinary for both action-taking individuals and procrastinators alike. I love lists! When I have a big project going, I make a list of the lists I need to make. My mother is a list maker, so maybe it’s hereditary. I refer to my lists frequently, and often recommend making a list as a helpful tool for my clients.
Last week, one of my clients told me that when she makes a list, she invariably loses it. I asked her how often she loses her phone. When she admitted that she’s never without that vital instrument for communication, I asked her to play with the idea of keeping the list in her phone. If you are at your computer screen frequently, you could try keeping your lists in a document on your desktop. I keep a list of ideas in an email draft that I never plan to send to anyone. I can access the draft on my phone or computer, and print it out if I need a hard copy.
I’ll never forget when a friend expressed her utter disdain for lists.
“If I write it down and don’t get it done, that’s like failing. Every time I make a list I end up feeling overwhelmed, or like I’ve failed. It’s one or the other and I don’t like either, so I don’t make lists.”
No wonder she hates lists, it made perfect sense. Every time she made a list, she was using it like a whip to drive herself forward, or punish herself for what she labeled as failure. Used as a weapon against oneself, the list becomes hateful, instead of valuable.
The list is not a whip. It’s a basket.
A basket is not punishing. A basket is quiet. It sits humbly and holds what we put into it until we are ready to retrieve what we put there.
Something that can cause me a great deal of stress is worrying that I might forget something important. I run three businesses with a lot of moving parts, and I get a lot of ideas. When I get a particularly good idea, my mind runs in circles with it’s arms clutched about the idea thinking, “I must not lose this gem! MUST hold onto thought.” That fear of losing something causes unnecessary anxiety – especially if my mind is trying to hold onto several good ideas at the same time. Lists help me keep track of items without the constant mind juggling. As soon as I add the idea to the appropriate list, I can let it go, knowing it will be here for me when I come back for it. Anything that helps relieve stress is magical in my book.
Lists allow us to see everything at a glance.
When the time is right to take action on listed items, a quick glance reveals our options. I often look at the list of what I’d like to accomplish and pick the one that sounds most fun in this moment. Alternatively I can choose the item I least look forward to and do that first. Then anything else I mark off the list seems like a cake walk.
I have a basket full of spiritual practices that raise my vibration. I don’t feel compelled to do all of them every day, but I don’t want to forget about the ones I like doing once in awhile which is easy to do if they are out of sight. I can browse the list any time and magically pick the one that feels right in the moment.
Lists help us prioritize!
We can make the list in order of importance, or once the list is complete, we can go back and order it numerically, or just add stars to the most important items.
People who are helpers and caregivers can sometimes over-give. If you are someone who tends to do more for others than for yourself, you are not alone! When my clients fall into this category, they are often feeling resentful. I ask them to make a list of the things they want to do for their own health and well-being, and things they want to accomplish.
The list then becomes a magical tool that can help us stop over-giving.
When someone asks us to help them, we can use the list to discern whether we actually have time to help them, and if their “to-do” is a higher priority than the starred items on our own list. We can even use one or more items on the list to postpone helping someone, or even say “no” to helping them once in a while. How would it feel to say, “I am willing to help you with this after I complete (your priority task).” Or, “I promised not to say yes to helping anyone until I finish writing my resume.” You get the idea.
The list is an incredibly simple and free tool, yet powerful enough to relieve stress, remind us of our priorities, help us say no, and create what we want to create.
I’m a fan!
How frequently are you using lists?
Are you using them as a whip or a basket?
Where is the place you find most effective to keep your lists?
What list could you use right now to help you create what you wish?
Try making a list of all the lists that might be helpful to you! Remember these are just baskets to hold great ideas for later!