During a business mastermind group meeting a few weeks ago, one word continued to come up in our conversations: list. We were throwing out ideas left and right for the types of lists we needed to create to grow our businesses. One of us needed a list of bridal shows and Washington, D.C. area event planners. Someone else needed a list of mommy bloggers.
List making has been a job function of mine since my first position out of college in 2001. At that time, I was responsible for creating/maintaining media lists for my employer’s communications department. I undoubtedly thought this task was tedious, and I probably dreaded doing it, but the skill—along with Internet data mining—has been an invaluable one to me as a business owner.
There are notebooks around my house and office filled with lists I’ve made over the years. Most of these lists—which have maintained order and sanity in my life— fall into nine categories:
Daily to-do list
Each morning in the shower I ask myself, “What do I need to get done today?” I keep that list in the back of my mind until I get to the office. The first thing I do after turning on my laptop is jot that list down on a sticky notepad.
Short term goal list
Some of my tasks should be completed in the next week or month. These items are jotted down in a list and assigned ideal due dates.
Long term goal list
Most of the time, there are projects that involve a number of tasks that should be completed in the next 60-90 days. Again, I jot those items down and assign ideal due dates.
There’s always someone I need to call back or follow up with via email. Since I do a lot of cold-calling and email prospecting, this list can also be a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that details the contact name, company, email, phone and other information. Ideally, this information should be housed within a web-based customer relationship management tool.
These are helpful for client meetings or interviews. If I don’t jot these questions down, then I’ll forget to ask for the most important information I need for client projects or video.
Post-meeting task list
Have you ever left a meeting thinking either, “Now what was the point of that?” or “So what am I supposed to do now?” This list helps prevent post-meeting head scratching. When I was interviewing for jobs after college, my friends would ask for details after the meetings were over. I’d forgotten most of the information by the time I’d started my car to leave. Now, I write everything down during meetings, especially action items.
Okay, I’ll admit, I often have a hard time making decisions. It’s not that these decisions are particularly tough. It’s just that I don’t want to decide one way and end up kicking myself later because I didn’t really think through my choice. Here is where the pro/con list comes in. It helps me weigh the advantages and disadvantages of my choices. When the good outweighs the bad on my pad of paper, I feel like I can make an intelligent decision.
My blog posts begin as general ideas until I ask myself, “What is it that I want to say?” or “What are the main points I want to make?” I then jot those down in a pre-writing list. This list can look like the standard outline for longer written pieces.