My List of Why I Love Lists
I love making lists.
They're my favorite way to capture, collect and connect.
Here's a short list of why I love list:
- It's easy to start a list
- It's easy to add an item to a list
- It's easy to split a list into two new lists
- You can use them to capture pretty much anything
- It's easy to rearrange a list
- Lists create order
- Lists are versatile
- Lists can be used to group common things
- Lists can be used to get things done
- Lists can be used to make sure you don't forget things
- Lists are flexible
- Lists can (and often are) be made on paper, dry erase boards or digitally
- Lists make it easy to break work into smaller chunks
If you're not already convinced of the unmatched utility of lists, then you're in the right place.
My goal with this post is to inspire you to become a list maker yourself by showing you all of the reasons that I believe lists fundamentally change the way I experience the world and the world experiences me.
3 Fundamental Types of Lists
There are 3 fundamental types of lists:
- Unordered lists - lists where the order of the items is not contextually important (usually denoted by a bullet point)
- Ordered lists - lists where the order of the items is contextually important (usually denoted by sequential numbers or alphabetical letters)
- Checklists - unordered or ordered lists that have a way to denote the status of a task (usually denoted by a box in place of a bullet point or a box next to a bullet point, number or letter)
Let's delve further into the various kinds of lists. We'll examine some guiding principles for their usage and provide examples of suitable content for each list type.
The goal of unordered lists are about capturing important points, not ranking them.
The power of unordered lists lies in their capacity for swift idea capture.
You can jot down thoughts promptly without fretting about their positioning or significance.
The primary aim is to maintain the list, making the process stress-free and efficient.
Principles for When to Use an Unordered List
When I am deciding if I should use an unordered list, here are the principles I use:
- Absence of Sequence or Hierarchy: If the items on your list do not have an inherent order or hierarchy, an unordered list is suitable.
- Non-numerical Items: If you're listing items that aren't associated with numbers or quantities, such as ingredients in a recipe, an unordered list is a good choice.
- Equal Importance: If all the items on your list hold equal significance and there is no need to prioritize, opt for an unordered list.
- Subjectivity: If the order of items can vary based on personal preference or individual interpretation, an unordered list should be used.
- Summary or Overview: If you're giving an overview or summary of various points, and no specific order is required for understanding, an unordered list will work well.
- Brainstorming: During brainstorming sessions where you're generating ideas without regard to order or precedence, an unordered list is ideal.
The purpose of an unordered list is to display information clearly and concisely, without implying a sequence or priority.
Common Types of Unordered Lists
Determining whether a list should be unordered doesn't always require an adherence to certain principles.
Often, most unordered lists can be categorized into specific types:
- Brainstorming ideas: When generating a myriad of ideas, the order is not essential, but capturing each thought is.
- Grocery shopping list: The sequence of items doesn't matter; the focus is on ensuring you buy everything needed.
- Listing hobbies or interests: On a resume or personal website, listing hobbies or interests typically doesn't require a specific order.
- Content overview: If you're providing an overview of topics covered in a blog or article, an unordered list helps the reader see at a glance what is included.
- Features or benefits: When listing the features of a product or the benefits of a service, an unordered list is often used as the order is usually not important.
- Inventory list: When recording items for inventory, the sequence is usually not crucial.
The goal of an ordered list is to provide a sequence or show priority, giving your readers a clear path to follow or a means to understand importance or rank.
Ordered lists are powerful when you need to provide a clear sequence or hierarchy for items, thereby enabling a systematic and logical progression.
This structure aids comprehension and ensures an orderly approach to tasks, particularly where sequence or priority is crucial.
Principles for Using Ordered Lists
Ordered lists are an invaluable tool when you wish to convey a sequence or a set of steps. Here are the principles to consider when deciding to use an ordered list:
- Sequential Tasks: If your list comprises steps that must be followed in a specific order, an ordered list is the way to go. Think recipes, assembly instructions, or procedural guidelines.
- Hierarchy or Priority: When the items on your list have a clear ranking or order of importance, it's time to call upon the ordered list. Examples could be a countdown of best songs, a priority list of tasks, or a hierarchy of company positions.
- Chronology: Events that occur in a time sequence are best presented in an ordered list. Timelines, historical events, or a list of business quarter results all benefit from this format.
- Measurement or Scale: If the list items can be measured on a scale or spectrum, an ordered list is your best bet. Examples might include a ranking of cities by population, rating books from best to worst, or arranging data from highest to lowest.
- Listing References or Citations: When you're listing references or citations, especially in academic or scholarly writing, an ordered list helps to keep track of the numerical order of citations.
Common Types of Ordered Lists
Here are some frequently encountered types:
- Procedural Steps: Whether it's a recipe, DIY project instructions, or a software installation guide, an ordered list ensures each step is followed in the correct sequence.
- Ranking: If you're ranking items based on a certain criterion (best to worst, most to least important), an ordered list is the perfect choice. For instance, 'Top 10' lists, music charts, or league tables.
- Chronological Events: Historical timelines, company milestones, or a list of your favorite movies by release year – any time-based sequence benefits from an ordered list.
- Academic or Research Citations: In academic or scholarly writing, referencing sources often requires numbering, making an ordered list an ideal format.
- Agendas or Meeting Minutes: Listing the order of topics to be discussed in a meeting or the sequence of events at a conference are perfect examples of when to use an ordered list.
The goal of an ordered list is to showcase a hierarchy, sequence, or chronological order, thereby providing your audience with a clear understanding of the item's order or priority.
Checklists are exceptional tools because they simplify complex tasks into manageable steps, enhancing productivity and efficiency.
Additionally, they serve as tangible reminders, reducing the possibility of overlooked tasks or steps, thus ensuring thorough completion of duties.
Checklists are versatile as they can standalone, nest within other list types, or even augment other lists as an additional feature.
The adaptability of a checklist makes them a cornerstone in the realm of lists.
Principles of a Checklist
Here are some principles for crafting an effective checklist:
- Clarity and Simplicity: Each item on the checklist should be clear, concise, and simple to understand, leaving no room for ambiguity or confusion.
- Action-Oriented: Checklist items should be actionable tasks. Use command verbs to begin each point, for instance, "Verify," "Check," or "Review."
- Logical Sequence: If the tasks on the checklist need to be performed in a specific order, arrange them accordingly. However, if the order doesn't matter, aim for a logical or thematic grouping of tasks.
- Usability: Design your checklist to be user-friendly. It should be easy to mark off completed tasks and to see at a glance what still needs to be done.
- Brevity: Checklists should be concise. If a task is complex, break it down into subtasks to keep the checklist items brief and manageable.
The goal purpose of a checklist is to ensure nothing is forgotten, boosting productivity and enhancing accuracy in task completion.
Common Types of Checklists
Checklists come in various shapes and sizes, each tailored to its specific purpose.
Here are some commonly used types:
- Project Management Checklists: These encompass a sequence of tasks needed to complete a project, ensuring each step is covered and nothing is overlooked.
- Event Planning Checklists: For organizing events, these checklists include all the necessary preparations, from venue selection to guest invitations and catering.
- Travel Checklists: These are handy for packing luggage or planning trip itineraries, making sure no essential items or experiences are missed.
- Inspection Checklists: Used in safety audits or home inspections, these lists ensure all areas are inspected and comply with certain standards.
- Maintenance Checklists: These are useful for regular maintenance tasks of machinery, vehicles, or household appliances, ensuring all important checks are made.
- Cleaning Checklists: Whether for daily house cleaning or professional cleaning services, these lists ensure no area is left untidy.
- Health and Fitness Checklists: From workout routines to meal plans, these checklists help track health and fitness goals.
Each checklist serves a particular purpose, ensuring thoroughness, boosting productivity, and providing a clear framework for task completion.
Wrapping Up My Love Letter to Lists
As I close this love letter to lists, it's clear that the beauty of lists — ordered, unordered, or checklists — lies in their simplicity and versatility.
They capture chaos and give it structure, transforming it into clarity.
They convey a sense of order where there is none, bring coherence where there is confusion, and give us control in a world that often seems uncontrollable.
From organizing our daily lives to structuring complex projects, lists are the unsung heroes that guide us, ensuring nothing slips through the cracks.
Whether it's the humdrum grocery list or the detailed project management checklist, each type of list serves a unique purpose, making our lives easier and more manageable.
Lists are more than just a collection of items; they are a testament to our human need for order, clarity, and simplicity.
They are the rhythm to our rhyme, the method to our madness. They empower us to capture, sort, and conquer the challenges of life.
So, here's to lists — our faithful companions on this journey of life, helping us navigate with a little more ease, a little more clarity, and a lot more organization.
Long may they continue to serve us, silently and diligently, one bullet point at a time.
- I make 90% of my lists in Obsidian
- I make the other 10% of my lists on Swipies - Reusable Paper or dot grid paper
- How to use lists in Markdown
- The Checklist Manifesto (direct)