CEO Coaching: The List

I had a good, productive day today because of the list.

The list doesn’t appear; you must create it. Once created, it won’t do anything on its own; you must use it. If unused, it becomes irrelevant, though it can shame if you view it after inactivity.

There are good lists and bad lists, mostly depending on how much thought goes into creating the list. If it aligns with values, strategy, desired direction, and what you can reasonably accomplish, it can be a good list. If random, it can be good, but only randomly. It’s just as often bad.

Although the unacted upon list can shame, the effectively used list can create pride and satisfaction. It’s not benevolent by itself, but when combined with elbow grease, it creates joy and momentum.

Lists might be fat, skinny, analogue, digital, shorthand, or highly detailed. Some are embedded in software programs; some stand alone or are in a spiral notebook. They can all work.

Some lists are written or revised daily; some can last a month or more.

Some lists are business only, some personal only, some mixed. Some have the highest value action on top; some are more haphazard. Some have checkboxes, dates, or some type of building blocks—breaking big items into small chunks (these are dangerously close to plans).

My wife once saw that an item on my list was to create a list around an important topic. “You have a list that tells you to create a list?” she asked. You must be impervious to ridicule from those who chafe at structure and discipline. This isn’t always pleasant because you’ll be the one who does the lion’s share of the work, partly because of your list.

You may be enticed to create multiple lists, but I discourage this. You don’t order three entrees at a restaurant because you can’t decide, do you? As you’ve no doubt discovered, the list is your to-do list. You can have a favorite restaurant list that doesn’t conflict with your to-do list. In fact, I’d encourage you to develop some or all of the following lists: your favorite human beings, your favorite vacation spots, your favorite ski resorts (assuming you ski), your favorite fly-fishing rivers (assuming you fly-fish), and your favorite mustards. These should all be mandatory.

I probably should’ve made a list of the most important lists.…

Anyway, don’t just let life happen to you; create a list and take some control! You’ll get more done and have more time to create more lists!

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