Tuesday, January 07, 2014

making a list, checking it twice

With the dawn of a new year, comes those three words that everyone likes to discuss, but few like to accomplish: "new years resolutions". 

Personally, I don't even call it "resolutions", as I've now referred to my list of stuff to accomplish as "my stuff to accomplish this year". So if and when I miss a few things at the end of December 2014, I won't have any guilt of breaking a resolution... it'll just something that didn't get crossed off my list.

And oh, I have a list. And you should too.

When I worked at Starbucks, especially at night, we had lots of tasks to get done in order to get the store closed and properly cleaned, to be ready to go for the next day's business. Dishes, plating pastries, re-plating pastries, pulling pastries and sandwiches to thaw, cleaning the cafe, filling and stocking the drink case and so on and so forth. I worked at Starbucks for almost 11 years, and in that time, I probably closed hundreds of times... and nearly every time, I made a list of stuff to do.

I would pull out my box cutter, slice off a cardboard flap from a box in the back, and use it to write. It was big, it was thick and large enough to not just get tossed with anything else that looked like trash. It was my list, and people knew that when they worked with me, there would be some cardboard with sharpie all over it, with an extensive list of stuff to do.

So why do I suggest a list for your year? For your quarter? Even for your month? 

Putting it down on paper means something. When you actually write it, it gives your list that little extra something, that little extra bit of meaning. 

So how do you make a list? One that works? Let me give you my suggestions that you may take or leave, for whatever you think its worth...


And no, I don't mean typing it up online, making it bullet pointed, or using a numbered outline... I mean, grab a notebook, a piece of copy paper, a post it, or, yes, a piece of cardboard, and taking a pencil, and phsycially putting the tip of that writing instrument to your paper of choice, and creating letters, letters that spell words. Make it messy, make it neat... use calligraphy, use bubble letters, use Gaelic print, whatever... but write it down.


Don't just write "Clean kitchen". What does that even mean? Clean the sink? Clean the cabinets? Clear out the fridge? Mop the floors?

How about a list that says: "Clean the sink"... "Empty out cabinet"... "Empty out and wipe down fridge"... "Sweep"... what if you have about eight things on your list instead of "clean kitchen"? Why would you do this? Because you want to know when you are done. Crossing off all of your kitchen tasks means you are finished with the kitchen... rather than just wondering when you've done enough to qualify as "kitchen clean".

My Starbucks closing lists would include the people I was working with, and their breaks, so as they had their 10s and their lunches, I could cross it off...


You can make your list of five things, but if two of those things are "cure diabetes" and "split the atom", it may not happen. I'd rather have a list of 48 things that I know, given time, I can do. Also, if your goals include "get closer to God", then how do you define that? Make it attainable... "daily quiet time" or "pray on the way to work after dropping off the kids" or "read a chapter in Mark every week". 


Sometimes when I finally make my list of tasks for a day, or a week or beyond, I end up putting some things on the list that I may have already done, or things that I am going to quickly knock out. This seems a little silly, I know, but it gives me a sense of making some headway.

And I love crossing things off of a good list... I'd rather look at a list of 50 things with 10 crossed out than a list of 10 things with nothing crossed out... it helps me know I'm getting somewhere...


Some lists, like the ones I made for closing a Starbucks store, were for one night. My Great 48 of 2014 is for the entire year, but even so, I have weekly goals for some things, I have "benchmarks" for other tasks, and even small sub lists of things like "Have lunch with people"... I have a list of people I want to make sure I connect with over the next 50 weeks. 


Don't be all business. Write some stuff down that make your goals fun. On my list for the year? Watch "The Way We Were"... not that that will be fun--on the contrary, I actually dread it, but its one of The Lovely Steph Leann's favorite films, so I have decided to watch it at some point this year. If you have a list of things to do, be it today or this year, put the fun stuff down too. Just because its a to-do doesn't mean you can't enjoy it.  One guy I know has a simple goal on his list: "Ask her out".  Translation?  Winning.

So there it is. You may have an entirely different way of making your lists... or you may not make lists... or you may find my list methods ridiculous. But this is how I do it... and I hope it helps a bit...

(4831 words written... 15,169 to go for January...)

1 comment:

  1. A post on lists is comment-worthy! Love to put pen to paper -- it really does make it real. Specific items, and especially those already accomplished DO have a place -- it gives me a slew of opportunities to be (or at least, feel) productive. Yay, d$ -- a list buddy!


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