How to Make Effective Lists

I’m always trying to find ways to stay more organized and on top of things. I have a really bad memory, which pretty much means that when I come up with a good idea or remember something important–usually at a very inconvenient place or time–I need a way to keep those thoughts together. I’ve compiled a list (ha!) of some of the best types of lists and list-making techniques that will help you keep yourself as organized as I strive to be!

1. The To-Do List

The most famous list, a to-do list, is basically all the things you need to get done in a certain period of time. My to-do list lives in my planner. Every day I think about all the schoolwork, extracurricular work and errands I need to get done, usually by the next day. I find that with making lists, it’s easier to write everything down first, then organize it later. If I know I have assignments, I’ll write them all down, put the due date next to it, and circle that date. After I have everything written in front of me, I go to the left of the list and number them based on the order I need to do them in, any time constraints or the order I know will be easiest for me.

If you know everything you have to tackle for the upcoming week, try to make day-to-day lists in advance. That way, if you know you have something due on Thursday, and it’s only Monday, you can put that assignment under Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. It’ll be a reminder, plus if your Tuesday list is bare, you can knock that out and ease your Wednesday workload.

While to-do lists can seem rather urgent, if you don’t have an imminent deadline, adding a task to your to-do list every day will allow for you to get it out of the way.

2. The Shopping List

The key to a shopping list is that you keep adding to it every second up until the moment you have reached the checkout counter of a store. There is nothing worse than getting home and realizing you forgot something important.

If you have a notepad available at home, you can add to it the second you run out of something important. You may even want to have two or three notepads next to each other if you shop at a variety of places based on the product (groceries, house supplies, etc.).

You shouldn’t rip that paper off the notepad until you’re ready to go shopping. Put it in your wallet, because if you have money, you have your list, and if you have your list,  you have money. You need both to shop. While you’re at the store, keep adding to the list! You may walk down the soap aisle, see the brand your cousin Quinn uses, think of the last time you saw Quinn, and the delicious s’mores she made, and remember that you needed to buy graham crackers.

3. The Idea List

A lot of Emerson students are entering a creative field in some way or another. Our futures depend on our bright ideas, and I know we have a lot! As a journalism major, I always get really great story ideas at the most inconvenient times. That, of course, is why I carry around my bright pink steno pad everywhere I go. The best part about writing your ideas down in a notebook is that you can pull it out anywhere, like in class or in church, and unlike a cell phone, no one is going to glare at you and tell you to put it away.

I personally prefer to write all my ideas down. They feel more authentic and well thought out when they are coming out from my hand onto paper, rather than being typed on a screen. They feel more tangible.

When you’re composing ideas, I recommend creating a miniature outline underneath your main idea. You may jot down “Kevin Breakfast” in a rush then go back to it later and think, “um…same.” To make life easier for yourself, put a few bullet points under Kevin Breakfast, eg. “Kevin Bacon breakfast restaurant” and “menu items are puns for his movies.” Then under that you can write down the puns as you think of them!

List making is a life saver and will definitely keep you more organized. You already make lists in your head, even if you don’t know it! Putting that information down on paper will declutter your brain and allow you to accomplish all the great things you are capable of!