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June 1, 2024 6 mins

A listener shares the list-making strategy that helps her feel less busy while getting more done

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Speaker 1 (00:03):
Welcome to Before Breakfast, a production of iHeartRadio. Good Morning.
This is Laura. Welcome to the Before Breakfast podcast. Today's
tip is to get it out of your head. That is,
write down anything you're not going to do, write this minute.
In a previous episode, I talked about keeping your to

do list short. The reason to do this is that
there's no point putting something on a to do list
and then not doing it. It's just as undone as
if you'd never put it on the list in the
first place. Only now you feel bad too. Better to
have expectations meet reality. The only way to guarantee that
happens is to keep your list short. I mentioned that

a lot of people really resist this idea. That's because
we're responsible for more than three to five things in
the universe. So what do you do with the rest
of this stuff? How do you keep it from clogging
up your brain? How do you make sure you'll remember
it in the future. Well, As Before Breakfast listener Holly
put it in an email to me, you get it
out of your head. Holly wrote in her note that

while she was going through some very stressful times in
her personal life, she began writing down various images and
memories that came to her, so she'd have them somewhere
but wouldn't have to dwell on them. She later realized
that this process was useful for things beyond her ruminations.
It was a good idea for managing to do lists
in general. So now I have a small notebook and

each page has a subject line, she writes, And on
that page, I create a list of things I need
to remember, things that I need to do, and things
I want to do. This takes them out of my
head and into a place I can look over several
times a day to see what I can tick off.
That is, when she finds herself with some extra time.
She noted that these lists also hold her accountable for

steps toward bigger projects. It shows progress, it shows achievements,
and it shows goals. She says, So what kind of
pages does Holly have in her notebook? She sent me
a partial list with all of them. She has pages
for tracking holidays taken at work, notes for her lawyer,
notes for her doctor, notes about money general category. Here,

she says, I put things I need to do but
having gotten around to, such as getting the cat microchip,
to meeting up with so and so, etc. She has
a page for her podcast, a page devoted to holiday destinations,
page devoted to therapy that might encompass things to cover
in sessions or exercises she needs to do, shopping lists, makeup.
She says, I keep a list of the shades and
brands I love so I don't forget, a destination, bucket list,

a list for her car which includes general info and
renewal dates things like that, a Christmas gift ideal list,
a dream journal, birthday list, social appointments, etc. Holly writes
that this may seem like a lot, but each time
I need to make room in my head or life,
or I'm worried I'll forget a date or a piece
of information, I just flip to that page and note

it down. It has given me back control and allowed
me to stop procrastinating. What Holly discovered is that just
because we're not going to do something right now doesn't
mean we don't want to know about it or think
about it in the future. So, for instance, I just
made a list in my planner that I'm calling this
summer fun list. These are things I want to do
over the summer that makes summer feel like summer to me,

I put things like eating ice cream at days in
Ocean Grove on the New Jersey Shore, going to a
Phillies game, going to a beer garden, and listening to
music outdoors. None of these things are on my to
do list for tomorrow or even for the next week.
But as I'm going into summer weekends and thinking about
what I might like to do, I'll have this list
to look back on. I also have an ongoing list

of home projects that we should probably do at some point.
If I put clean out the closet on my to
do list for this weekend, well, it probably wouldn't get
done because it's a full weekend, and then I'd feel bad.
But at least now it's somewhere, and when I do
feel like I have some time and want to tackle
a project, I know which ones I've identified as being
worth doing. I'd also definitely recommend keeping a TBR list

that stands for to be read. Anytime you hear a
good book recommendation, don't assume you'll remember it. You won't
remember it. Put it on the TBR list. Then when
you find yourself stuck with a weight somewhere, you can
look at the list, order the ebook on your phone
and start reading it in your eReading app. Our brains

can do all sorts of amazing things, but remembering stuff
we need to do in the future is not really
one of those things. Or worse well, remember the thing
at a time when we can do nothing about it.
I really should call my accountant about that tax issue
is just not a helpful thing to wake up and
mull over at three am, So get it out of
your head. Then your head will have room for all

sorts of other amazing ideas. I'd love to hear about
the lists you make. Do you make a lot of them,
like Holly, or just a few? Do you keep them
in a notebook or an app or somewhere online. You
can email me with your ideas at Before Breakfast Podcast
at iHeartMedia dot com. In the meantime, this is Laura.

Thanks for listening, and here's to making the most of
our time. Hey, everybody, I'd love to hear from you.
You can send me your tips, your questions, or anything else.
Just connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at
Before Breakfast Pod that's b E the number four then

Breakfast Pod. You can also shoot me an email at
Before Breakfast podcast at iHeartMedia dot com that Before Breakfast
is spelled out with all the letters thanks so much,
should I look forward to staying in touch. Before Breakfast
is a production of iHeartRadio. For more podcasts from iHeartRadio,

visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen
to your favorite shows.

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Laura Vanderkam

Laura Vanderkam

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