List Making


Honestly, I don’t know how people get things done without a list. It’s not just a tool for remembering what to buy at the grocery store–lists help me keep my priorities straight on any given day.

Am I compulsive about writing lists? Not exactly. However, it’s probably a telling sign that today’s list of activities included making another list. And this is the truth: I was not always this hyper-organized. Like most things, I learned the hard way.

I was working at NASA, supporting the Ares Program Manager and I completely dropped the ball because I didn’t have one of the manager’s requests because I didn’t have a comprehensive list of my pending deliverables. After I’d turned a darker shade of pink, I went back to my desk, where my supervisor informed me that I needed to develop and use a consistent, workable work tracking system or one would be imposed on me. Given those choices, I created my own.

Keeping myself organized in this manner is a survival mechanism for working, but eventually it can become a useful habit–even to the point of helping you plan your coming year, as I’m doing this week. While some people dread “to-do” lists (I had a high school teacher who had a “Do It!” list), here are some advantages to it:

  • You can make it as detailed or broad as you need
  • If you make it really detailed, you can feel like you’re making progress as you scratch things off of it
  • You can use it as a sanity check and work tool with your customers, peers, or supervisors, as you can use it to map out pending tasks and track what still needs to be done

Somewhere in my draft folder, I even had a list of upcoming topics that I wanted to write about until I burned through them all. Guess it’s time to write another one. 🙂

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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