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.
“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.
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.
“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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What are your indispensable lists?