list making for productivity

by Kaylah Stroup

Fairly often I get emails asking how I’m so productive and I always kind of feel stumped – I don’t necessarily feel more productive than other people but I guess being my own boss and being the sole person who keeps this ship up and running has taught me a few things about getting stuff done.

Jeff and I were sitting at the train station the other day and he was telling me about how he read list of things that successful people did and one of the items that really stuck with him was making lists. He told me what he’d read and my response was “Well, yeah! That’s how I make lists!” Most people make lists daily but it’s how you write those lists that really matters.

So your typical list might be:
▴ clean house
▴ buy groceries
▴ laundry
▴ do social media stuff
▴ blog

It looks simple enough but those tasks aren’t very specific. I’ve found that when I break my lists down as simply as possible I am SO much more productive. My lists look more like this:
▴ wash dishes
▴ vacuum house
▴ make bed
▴ clean kitty litter
▴ write grocery list
▴ get groceries
▴ wash clothes
▴ fold clothes
▴ queue Friday Favorites
▴ edit project 365 photos
▴ draft Monday’s post
▴ share post on FB
…etc, etc

The things on the second list are easier to cross off. They get right to the point. There’s no questioning whether or not you completed the task.  Being able to cross of items more quickly will make you feel more productive. I wish there was a prettier way to write this but nothing is better for productivity than feeling productive. Looking at a massive list that you’ve already half crossed off by noon feels like you’re majorly kicking some butt which makes you want to keep on chugging!

For larger tasks that can’t be completed in a day I usually set a time limit so that I can cross it off and move on to the next. For example instead of “design media kit”, I might write “work on media kit for one hour”. This means instead of avoiding it and deciding “oh, I don’t really have time today. I’ll do that tomorrow…” I can tackle it knowing that I don’t have to finish and that’s okay.

notebooks from Moorea Seal, who seriously has one of the greatest “office” categories. So many beautiful paper things!

This very simple little tip drastically improved my productivity when I figured it out. Hopefully it does the same for you. Do you guys have any easy tips to boost productivity? I’d love to hear them.

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Nicole Hokenstad October 7, 2015 - 1:43 pm

This is exactly how I make lists! I used to buy cute notebooks but I started collecting and not using them bc they were cute. Now I use a big, hideous industrial clipboard and yellow legal pads that works perfectly. I can have 30 specific things on a daily list and I feel better checking off 20 off those than 3 off a list of 5 vague topics. We recently moved into a crap heap of a rental and lists have been the only way we can both manage the insanely overwhelming amount to do!!

Kaylah October 7, 2015 - 2:12 pm

Hah! Definitely a notebook hoarder here too! It's so hard to use pretty ones for the first time.

Yep! I LOVE crossing things off the list. Feels so good!

Ashley Vincent October 7, 2015 - 2:34 pm

This is so smart, and so simple! I'm going to try it today 🙂

Kaylah October 9, 2015 - 12:21 pm

Hope it works out for ya! 😀

Lela Bungard October 7, 2015 - 2:36 pm

Those are great tips! I'm a horrible procrastinater and I would really love to change that about myself.

Kaylah October 9, 2015 - 12:21 pm

Oh, I can be too! I feel like writing these lists definitely helps!

Mel October 7, 2015 - 2:44 pm

Time limits are a great idea! I am a big list writer myself, but sometimes I can get caught up in a task and spend too much time on it (and thus have no time for other things on my list). I'm not sure why I didn't think of that before…

Kaylah October 9, 2015 - 12:22 pm

Putting time limits on list items changes everything!!

kelsey @ so much life to live October 7, 2015 - 3:38 pm

I've started making lists, too, with really specific things on them! Makes me so much more productive!

I have overall "goals" for my week and month written in my moleskine journal, and then I just used the notes app on my iphone for my daily tasks. That way, at the end of the day, I can delete that note and make a new one for the next day!

Kaylah October 9, 2015 - 12:25 pm

My lists have to be on paper or else I forget to reference them. (Also, I LOVE crossing things off!)

Jennifer Shaw October 7, 2015 - 5:29 pm

Very good tips here. I have always been a list person. It feels so good to cross things off and I like the feeling of a productive day.

Kaylah October 9, 2015 - 12:25 pm

Exactly! 🙂

hasmeen October 7, 2015 - 11:01 pm

This is sooo helpful! I love making lists, but I never get anything done. Everything on it is too general and I never know where to start! Thanks for the tip!!!

Kaylah October 9, 2015 - 12:28 pm

I hope it helps ya!

PeachSponge October 8, 2015 - 11:14 am

Hells yes! I am an excellent list maker – I put nearly everything on it. My husband teases me because I write "play animal crossing" on my list every day! I also do "wash towels" and then "restock towels" or else I forget and go to take a shower and there's no towels! Lists are freakin necessary for me to function! The days I cross off everything are the best – I feel so satisfied with myself when I go to bed!

Kaylah October 9, 2015 - 12:29 pm

Hahah. I'm definitely guilty of putting leisurely activities on my lists as well!

Kate Wilson October 8, 2015 - 12:19 pm

I'm definitely a list maker!

Taya Drake October 9, 2015 - 3:47 am

This is exactly what I need to start doing! I make way too vague of lists then feel bad when I don't accomplish anything. My only problem is figuring out which steps I need to take in order to reach my big goals. A lot of planning will need to be involved!
One step I know that works for me to accomplish things better is to turn off the TV. I wake up and eat breakfast and watch an episode while I eat. But then I keep watching episodes and get lost in a swirl of laziness. Maybe I'm the only one with this problem 😛
Anyway I hope to see more posts on this topic soon! 🙂

Kaylah October 9, 2015 - 12:33 pm

Oh, I feel ya on that. I do the same thing. I usually turn on something while I fold laundry (recently it's been Catfish!) and even after I'm done folding I find myself sitting there watching for a while.

Flos caeli October 9, 2015 - 6:24 pm

This is what works best for me too 🙂 I really like to buy cute notebooks or sketchbooks for lists but I always end up writing not scrap paper 😀

Faith Robinson October 13, 2015 - 10:50 am

I use a bullet journal to stay productive and organized. It's a really fantastic way to make sure you're productive every single day!

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