I often get lost when I’m trying to do something. Whether it is as simple as taking out the garage or as involved as writing a lengthy research paper, sometimes I just lose track of what I’m doing. Losing track is discouraging. It stops me in my tracks, makes me lose my concentration, and then I’m left feeling like I can’t do anything. And that’s the worst feeling of all. It’s hard to recover from being stopped, lost, and then discouraged. It’s a dangerous combination, and avoiding it essential for me to not waste valuable time. The list is how I do this. Sort of a combination of a variety of techniques I’ve read over the years (many popular, several just individuals I’ve met personally) and my own monitoring of my personal success and failure rate with having a list to work from. It’s simple, it makes sense, but it bears repeating. If you haven’t ever used a list I highly recommend it (and a quick search around will clearly explain why from a variety of perspectives).
My list is generally a digital list (kept on my computer) and it stares me in the face as I place it on my desktop (actually I display it on my desktop using a program called conky — which works on Linux, but there are other similar things you can find for other operating systems). At the end of each day I make sure that I have something to do for tomorrow (particularly with projects). So, in addition to having things like “take out the garbage” and “mow the lawn,” I also have something like “write first draft of section one.” This isn’t the whole paper, but a smaller part of it. And it isn’t the final draft, it’s a first draft. These two things together, a smaller chunk and the lack of perfection, are just enough to motivate me to write. And when I do wake up that next morning I know exactly what I need to do… right after I take out the garbage.