There is a quote by a man named Jack Kornfield that goes like this: “The problem is you think you have time.” It reflects how our brains are trained to think about things in a very day to day manner without really taking in the fact that our time on this planet is finite.
Not long ago I was a very unorganized individual. I lived life like how I thought my parents did. For the most part it was just existing. My father worked, he brought home money and my mother who was the housewife spent it. There was no discussion of where I was going or what I was doing. When I got out to the real world I was unprepared. Day to day living was the norm. The money I made I spent, never thinking of the consequences. I also took some horrible jobs that would lead nowhere because I thought getting a job was the point, which I now see it clearly wasn’t.
I was living life by the seat of my pants, floating through time wondering why I was not getting anywhere. Then, by chance I was invited to a friends house. While hanging out in his room talking I noticed what seemed like a note taped to the back of his door. I asked him what it was. He explained that the note was really a list. It was all of the the things he wanted to accomplish by the end of the week, the month and the year. Every week he would change it because every week the goals could change. It was a way he kept his life on target.
I thought this was fascinating. My friend made a list of goals. It seemed that he was ambitious and wanted to get somewhere and drew himself a roadmap. The bad thing was that I didn’t find it fascinating enough to start doing what he was doing. Then I joined the U.S. Army.
I was thrown into the world of lists. There were daily lists, weekly lists, monthly lists and lists that those lists were on. Some of us carried what they called “Leaders Books” which were just a book of lists. If you didn’t have a list for what you needed to accomplish for the day you were not working. And God forbid you were caught “not working”.
From there on I realized that in order for me to accomplish anything in life I had to make a list. To this day I have my list of goals. I have my annual goals, monthly goals and weekly goals. I even have my daily goals that are filled with things I need to accomplish at work and things I need to accomplish out of work.
Lists have organized my life into something tangible. Before I couldn’t see what I had accomplished during the day. I would have to actually sit and think of what I did. My wife surprises me from time to time with the question of what I’ve done to which I whip out my list and start rattling off the things I’ve checked off. Case closed.
My list changes from day to day. I even add things to the list as I go about attaining my goals because things pop up that are out of my control. Lists organize my life into manageable and compartmentalized events.
Some events you might do every day. These events are habits. They have developed over the course of time and have become so ingrained in what we do every day they become routine.
One of the things I do every morning, no matter what, is make my bed. It is one thing that is the cornerstone of a productive day and the first accomplishment that I can check off my list. It is my part of my morning routine.
Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, used to make his own bed every day. He stated that it got him in the frame of mind that got him through every day as CEO of one of the most important Blue Chip companies in United States history. During his tenure as the head of the company the value of it rose 4,000%. Quite an unbelievable feat. I bet making your bed is looking more and more appealing at this moment.
If I don’t get something accomplished during my day I move it over to the next day and add it to that list. Usually it’s something that wasn’t as important as some of the other things. I usually leave the most unimportant for last.
My ultimate goal is to accomplish my daily goals in relation to my weekly, monthly and annual goals. If I can achieve my annual goals completely, then I can reward myself. Being a frugal person I would probably opt for a steak or sushi dinner. Those culinary delights make me the happiest.
So what do you want to accomplish? Break it down to things that you need to do and things that you want to do. You need to go food shopping, pay bills, do things at work, wash dishes, etc. You may want to achieve a new goal at the gym, spend an hour of the week volunteering, treat yourself to a movie, or save a particular amount of money in a savings account. These are all valid things to add to your daily list.
Your weekly, monthly and annual list follow the same precepts. Look at where you are at the moment and chart a path to where you want to be.
Maybe you’ve had a difficult time finding motivation to do something such as working out, going for a walk, or some other task that you would like to perform, but just can’t seem to get around to do it. Making it part of a list makes the feat more tangible because now you see it on a piece of paper. In order for you to get to your goal at the end of the day you have to do it so you can check it off.
When you check things off your list you are not just checking of things to do. They are goals. They are accomplishments. They are actions that you take in order to celebrate at the end of the day. How great would it feel if you could make a list of ten things you want and need to do and get them done by the time dinner time rolls around? It would feel pretty good. What if you hit that mark every day for a week? How about a month? How would that make you feel? It would feel pretty amazing to me. I’m sure it would be just as amazing to you!
I mentioned to put the list on a piece of paper. I prefer paper because, again, you can hold it in your hands. I would suggest to go out and get a notebook. I wouldn’t suggest getting the ones with the spiral spine. They get crushed and warped and they can eventually make turning your pages oddly difficult, especially if you’re stuffing it in a bag or briefcase.
I also prefer notebooks because if you record your list in an app you can close it. When you do that the app disappears and becomes just another icon amongst many on your phone. This makes it hard for you to remember to look at your list during the day. You’ll forget that you made the list until you go home and realize you didn’t check on your progress. Your day is shot because you’ve accomplished just a fraction of what could have been done.
Another benefit to writing your list down in a notebook is that you can see the progress you’ve made instantly. You can turn pages to go back and see what you’ve accomplished and how far you’ve gotten with your goals. You can also make notes in the margins, scribble anecdotes, even add things with ease as they come up. It’s one of the ways to keep motivated to make your days productive. Seeing is believing and believing in yourself as you cross things off your list is awesome!
So get out there and make your list. Make a few. Write down your goals. Set the pace for a new beginning. Start off small and expand your list as you go through the days and weeks. Develop new habits. Develop new talents. Bring about the new you as you cross things off. Tape it somewhere you can see it like my friend did. Post it to the back of a door or stick it on a mirror. Just remember to carry it with you throughout the day.
Life is short and time is in limited supply. Make life more vibrant and create more memorable moments as you track your adventures, both mundane and exciting, with just two simple tools that are literally at your fingertips: a pen and a notebook. List it to live it.