My life changed for the better ever since I started maintaining lists for different aspects of my life. Writing down lists gives me clarity on what I’m up for and helps me bring order from a world of chaos. It enables me to manoeuvre every complicated activity by breaking them down into several tasks, converting abstract thoughts into concrete action items and providing a logical flow of information. Be it getting a Schengen visa, managing tasks at work or organising my weekly/monthly grocery shopping, I have a list for everything!

I believe in the aggregation of marginal gains. With a list, you can afford to forget about the big picture for a brief period and focus on one small task at hand. Do it once, give it all your focus, do it right and then move on to the next one. I get anxious when I have to deliver a big piece of work. But writing down an action plan and breaking it down into the list of tasks to do, brings me a sense of calm and assures me that I can do this. 

Over the years, I’ve made very many lists to power through my days. Here are my Top 5 lists I cannot imagine living without! 

To-Do list

Of course, there is a To-do list. Here, I categorise tasks under 3 sections: 

  • To-do Today
  • To-do Next
  • To-do Later

Initially, I started with one list where I’d dump everything in my brain. Most of them were things that I had to do at some point and only a few of them had to be done immediately. I learned that this was not effective. Despite prioritising important items, the list was never-ending. I always felt I was falling behind. After a point, I did not even bother checking the list every day. 

So, I decided to add 2 more sections – To-do Next and a To-do alter section. To-do next serves as my backlog for the next day’s To-do. To-do Later is where I’d write items that were still vague and I had to figure out what to do with them. This way I still had a view of the big picture, but I knew what exactly I had to finish in a day. I kept a limit on the number of items based on the average number of tasks I usually handle. This made a huge difference in how I managed my time. I also use reminders for one-off events. I try to add dates to the items in the Next and Later section to avoid bringing it up to my To-Do today list unless required. 

Personal Shopping List

How many times have you looked at your wardrobe and concluded that you did not have anything “proper” to wear? – Me! 

How many times have you gone shopping and returned empty-handed because you weren’t sure of what exactly was in your wardrobe? – Me again. 

This kept playing on a loop for a long time. To break this cycle, I started writing down what I wanted to buy. I would check my wardrobe and write down other colours I wanted to add. I wasn’t too specific, but I wasn’t too vague either – to give me some idea about what to buy, while still being flexible with my options. I slowly extended this list to accommodate more items – skincare, makeup, dresses (measurements, if buying online), gadgets etc. This saves me from spending a lot of time thinking about what to buy, or worse buying things that I may not need. Whenever there is a sale, I check my list and get what I only need, that too at a great price. 

Grocery List 

I have 2 templates – Weekly Grocery and a Monthly Grocery List. I learnt this from my Mom. Irrespective of the nature of shopping, she always has a list. I used to write a list every week/month. Realizing how my purchases were more or less similar, I made a template by writing everything I would usually buy in my weekly/monthly grocery list. I would then make a copy for that particular week/month, decide what to cook for the week, check what’s already at home, and strike out everything else I don’t need. This spares me from thinking too hard about anything I may have missed – especially for the monthly household shopping. Of course, I make changes based on what’s available at the store, but that happens for very few items. I write my list keeping in mind the layout of the store so that I wouldn’t have to go back and forth. 

Things to do

Has this happened to you – When you’re busy you’re thinking of all the things that you could have done, but when you do have the time you’re unable to decide what to do? 

Been there, my friend. Been there. 

I decided to maintain lists for all my favourite activities. I have a list for all the restaurants I want to visit so that I don’t spend hours on Saturday evening deciding where to go. I categorise them by cuisines. I also have the list of places I want to visit – places within the city or a few hours drive away, weekend getaways and possible holiday destinations. I have a list for the recipes I want to cook (I have another list for baking). There’s nothing more annoying than being excited to whip up a meal but ending up scrolling through plenty of recipes, unable to decide. The problem of plenty, I tell you. I also have lists for the books to read and the movies/series to watch. 

Bucket list

This is my happy list. If we’re allowed to have favourites – this is my favourite list. This is where I can dare to dream and go beyond. I focus on experiences, life skills and things I’ve always wanted to do. I don’t think a lot about what I write here, they might either be practical or can continue to be a dream. My brain doesn’t know that this list exists, it’s only for my heart :-). 

One of the most satisfying items to check was learning to whistle. I used to be extremely jealous of my Dad and a cousin who whistle so well. I somehow managed to learn and now people ask me to teach them. Next on my list is bungee jumping. Should have been ticked in April. Waiting for another opportunity. 

So, there you go. These are my top 5 lists. Most of these can be maintained in individual apps. But I prefer to have them all in one place so that it’s easy to keep checking and updating them. The Notes app works beautifully for me. It’s simple, effective and I can customise it the way I want to. 

One of the benefits of writing everything down is the amount of space it frees up in your mind to focus on other things. Decision fatigue is real. You may have noticed that I’m a very cautious person and believe in the power of being organised and planned. I know there are many things I cannot control, but for the few things that I can, I try. It keeps me prepared in most situations and gives me an illusion of power. And most importantly- the satisfaction of a job well done. 

So, are you a ‘list’ person? Tell me what lists you write.

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