Lists for those who love em – and those of us who should

3 mini-stories today on the power of lists, with great thanks to my good teachers: Eve, Uncle John, and Ivana.

1. Every Monday I share my list of top3 goals with my accountabilibuddy,” Eve.  Last month we hit our 100th week of exchanging by email our top 3 goals for the week ahead (as well as very brief notes on how we did on the prior week).  When you’re busy, it’s so easy for weeks to roll around and not realize you’re becoming more and more reactive, bailing water from your rowboat.  Making the list each week makes me relocate my important targets on the horizon, and aim my boat  in that direction. Eve and I also drive each other; sometimes the weekend is crazy, Monday rushes in, and one of us is already bailing water out of the boat.  The email comes from the other with their goals– a reminder. Get focused!

2. Keep one list and ONE list only.  My Uncle John Sanitate who was teaching time management taught me that lesson 25 years ago and it has served me well.  I add a corollary to John’s rule:  find a holder for your list that you LOVE.  My business partner, MA, always had a genuine affection for her brown leather planner; my associate Miranda keeps her list in what she delightfully and sheepishly calls “Big Blue,” a spiral, 5-subject beauty.  Last year, at Accountabilibuddy Eve’s suggestion, I started using Trello, and although it’s a virtual friend, I LOVE it. It’s a free program, super easy to use; the basic model is that you have columns, or “decks” of cards, kind of like Solitaire.  I reserve my left deck for my top 3 goals. If the week gets busy or free time emerges from a meeting cancellation, I go straight to that deck.  At the right end, I have a “done” deck into which I drag completed tasks, giving myself delight and momentum.  My favorite part of Trello is I have a “doing” deck. Because I can get scattered, the “doing” column is especially awesome.  I only put one card there. When I am doing something hard — for example, grading or writing — which demand attention, I easily get distracted.  I love the fact that when I drag a task into “doing,” I am reminding myself:  FOCUS!

A reader shared an interesting blog which gives an introduction to some of the great tools that are out there for sharing goals and tasks, and communicating with others. It’s here if you’re looking for some tools:

3. I’m not supposed to say this, but we almost never hit all our goals.  Ivana, a doctoral law student from Serbia sent me hers early yesterday.  She had nailed them completely! 5 pages of her dissertation; ran 4 times; 3 pages on another project. She was jumping off the page.  I was super inspired and got out and finished my remnants from last week.  Very cool.  And yet, often I am inspired by Eve’s not making her goals.  She’s starting a very cool dating app called Whim, so she has to motivate herself and her team, week after week, fighting the clock, stretching her start-up nickels, doing things that always take longer than they appear.  And it’s her sticking to it — at least as much as her marking things “done” — that motivates me.  Writing books, starting start-ups, raising kids, changing the world — these don’t happen overnight, but happen in the day, one step at a time, sometimes one step sideways, sometimes requiring one step backwards. Her perseverance motivates me at least as much as her successes.

Getting s–t done is something we all care about.  I’d love to hear what works for you, as you

Lead with your best self.

  • For those of us who use our Inbox as “lists”…

    Lately I have been following the Google e-mail guidelines and am finding that it really makes a difference in the amount of time I spend managing tasks in my inbox.

    Respond (disposition) quickly and clean out your inbox constantly so you aren’t handling the same e-mail more than once!

  • I am retired but find it even more important to be intentional about goals. My weekly to do list is divided into categories that can be addressed according to setting: in-house (phone calls, mail, housekeeping, writing) and outside errands arranged for efficiency. Finish-it Friday helps me wrap up tasks so weekends are free to relax and play. Retirees get plenty of requests for help. Having a plan allows me the freedom to say yes when I am available.

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