Sunday 26 January 2014

The power of the humble list

I'm addicted to lists. There, I said it. (Please don't all run for the hills!) I have to confess, though, that it wasn't until I started writing this blog post that I realised just how heavily the humble list features in my daily life.  Where on earth would I be without it?

Now, I'm not sure that all of my list uses will appeal to everyone (not given my list-tastic tendencies!). But, as ever, if there's just one suggestion that you find useful, then I'll consider this article a good job done.

Off we go....

The  master 'to do' list

Everyone has one of these in some shape or form, don't they? On a week day, this sits beside my desk with a list of categorised tasks. Paid for work comes first (needs must) and nowadays I might have another heading below for 'blog'. Then, if I'm feeling really efficient, I might include another section for the humdrum stuff I need to remember about - paying bills, making an optician's appointment, etc.

I work from a hard copy notepad but I know that some people like to save desk space and keep their work task list on their computer.  Between you and me, I think mine has always remained as a hard copy for two reasons:  Firstly, I have a tendency to remember about something important just after I've switched the laptop off.  Secondly, I really love the process of physically ticking a checkbox once I've completed a job. (So much more satisfying than clicking a mouse.)

Oh - and one more thing. Sometimes I'll write up my 'to do' list the night before, especially if the next day looks really busy.  It helps me to switch off a little and get some sleep. Otherwise, I risk a jumble of tasks swirling round my head at 3am.

The mobile list

I don't carry my beloved 'to do' list notepad about with me.  If a great idea for a work project springs into mind while I'm on the go or, more likely, I have one of those dreaded "Oh no, I've forgotten to do XYZ" moments, then I need to find some other way of capturing it.  Sadly, my average - and at times below average - memory can not be relied upon to retrieve the information later. This is where my trusty mobile 'phone comes in.  As a list lover, I've enthusiastically investigated lots of task list apps. My needs are fairly basic though, so I've found that most of them are too sophisticated. As an iphone owner, I use both the standard notes app and the reminders app (if the job is time-sensitive). The combination of the two is perfectly adequate to meet my on-the-go requirements.

The menu planning list

Or, as it is known in my household, the 'meals for the week' list.  This goes hand in hand with my weekly shopping list. Both get written up at the same time - usually at the weekend or on a Monday, by which time the cupboards are looking a bit forlorn.  By deciding what we're going to eat in advance for the next seven days or so, the shopping list becomes a bit more focused and there's less risk of impulse buying and wasted food at the end of the week. If hubby's home first, he can (in theory!) see which meals we have planned and start cooking in the knowledge that all the ingredients should be to hand. For this reason, I'll occasionally jot down a reference to the recipe book and page number alongside the planned meal. Note: Sometimes real life does get in the way, so the menu plan is not always adhered to rigidly. An element of flexibility is essential in my household!  The menu planning list is usually a scribbled affair that is attached via magnet to our fridge or notice board (of which more below).

The day-to-day family list

Not so much of a list, as a noticeboard.  My eldest child really likes to know what we're doing, what we're eating and who's at home on any given day. (Hubby works shifts so he's sometimes around after school, sometimes not.)  Kept in the kitchen, our family noticeboard is written up (usually by me, sometimes by the kids) the night before and stops me getting impatient answering the same, inevitable daily questions.  Again, things don't always go exactly to schedule but at least there is the intention of order among the family chaos! What's more, I think it gives my daughter a sense of security in what's becoming a fast-paced, ever changing world.  Given that hubby's a shift worker, it also reminds him what the plan is if he comes home to an empty or sleeping household.

The children's checklist

I realised the other day that this really needs an overhaul in our household. The original version was produced some years ago and my two children's capabilities have since moved on. However, as some of you might have younger children - and since we found it useful - I'll include it here anyway.  Pinned on the inside of our coat cupboard door, we have a simple checklist for the kids with pictures alongside.  Getting them out in the morning for nursery or school used to be really stressful (and, to be frank, it sometimes still is).  This checklist was designed to encourage them to develop some independence and to stop me asking the same questions day in, day out. You know the ones I mean, "Have you packed your swimming bag/show and tell project/recorder/water bottle?" and "Have you brushed your teeth/hair?". If you have access to any kind of word processing software like Microsoft Word, it's well worth the half hour to set up, print out and - if you have the equipment - laminate a list like this. I remember it working really nicely in the first few weeks (novelty value?), after which time some of the daily procedures were becoming ingrained.

Cautionary note: Don't leave it to languish like I did once the kids have got the hang of things! My next step should have been to move things up a notch and produce a new list. Perhaps one that includes some additional morning jobs that my two are more than capable of doing.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I might feel another list coming on...

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Shared on Works-For-Me-Wednesday (WFMW).


  1. There is something to be said for having a list. I usually only have a grocery list for our weekly food shopping. Perhaps it is time to start a list for those things to be done the next day. It may help with putting things "off" another day. I visited from Works For Me & I am thinking it might :)

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by! It's so easy to put things off isn't it?! Best of luck with the list making.