Making a list and checking it twice

December 18, 2009

It’s the Christmas season. Do you know how I know?

IMG_0380_2_2_2I know it’s Christmas because I have no fewer than five lists on the go. My gift list, a secret gift list for my kids and husband, a list of year-end projects to complete, today’s MUD to do list, my grocery list… you get the picture.

List making was a habit I picked up from my mother. Growing up, I remember countless lists floating around the house. I also remember that my mother was (and still is) an extremely well-organized woman. She had to be  – running the family business and raising four kids. Our home hummed along like a well-oiled machine. Our linen closet and kitchen drawers were works of art. A place for everything. Everything in its place.

A delicious sense of accomplishment

Years ago at a conference, I participated in an exercise where people were grouped according to their birth dates. At my table, it was established that we were all Virgos. (Virgos are known for their attention to detail.) A common theme among us was that we all made lists. We talked about how good it felt to cross things off our lists. One Virgo said that if she finished something that wasn’t on her list, she would add it and then cross it off, just for the pure joy of it.

An outlet for “energy leaks”

Gerrianne Clare, a life coach, recommends writing things down to “plug those energy leaks.” You know, those annoying “shoulds” that weigh on your mind because you can never seem to get to them – like balancing the books or organizing your storage room. These stressors ambush your time, rob you of energy and leave you feeling tired and unproductive.

Rather than continually pushing these niggling thoughts to the back of your brain, Gerrianne advises writing them down and breaking them into manageable tasks. “Get them out of your brain and onto paper. Acknowledge that they need to be done, and create a plan for yourself to do them.”

For me, there’s really nothing like a good pen and a piece of paper. It feels real, tactile and…committed. And seeing a list of tasks crossed off is, well… a thing of beauty.

I am also starting to get familiar with the many great features of Evernote.

If you haven’t already discovered the joy of lists, I encourage you to do so. Even if you’re not a Virgo, list making can clear your mind, help you get things done and give you a powerful feeling of accomplishment and freedom!


  1. If you’d like a tool for managing your time and projects, you can use this application inspired by David Allen’s GTD:

    You can use it to manage and prioritize your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A mobile version is available too.

  2. Wouldn’t you know – I am a Virgo too!

    I like paper lists best of all although I do use Tada and gmail sometimes. I recently stopped using pencil and started colour coding my lists. You have no idea how great it feels to strike out in red when you’ve completed a to do!

    Thanks for this great post Louise!

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