I have recently become aware that my list technique may be a problem. I’ve been a list-maker for years. What made me think that my list technique matters? Two recent instances where I noticed where my list and/or entries on them were causing me troubles:
List Technique #1
First, I got home from my short holiday and needed a few things at the store to put on the next series of meals. I was going to walk down to the local grocery, so I made a list:
I do a lot of shopping on foot, so I have learned how much I can carry in terms of bulk, but I’m not so good at weight. I ended up with about 20 pounds of purchases and two bags, plus my purse, plus the latte I was picking up for Mitch.
But there were only four things on the list! What I ended up with:
2 apples (large)
bag of grapes
3 packages of naan
half-gallon of milk
box of saline packets
small loaf of sourdough bread
Here are the flaws (there are more than one) in this list technique:
- Fruit, even though it was one entry it was actually four separate types of fruit. The total weight was 15 pounds! It might have been better to write out each fruit–I still needed it, but I probably could have skipped the bag of grapes, and maybe the apples.
- Milk is heavy. If I had written “half-gallon milk” it would have helped me see how much weight it was adding.
- Lunch was not specific enough. I knew I needed bread, but I hadn’t written down whether I needed sandwich bread or something else, so I got two kinds of bread.
But also, although I brought only two bags, I didn’t take into account that I also had a purse, gloves, and scarf that I was juggling, then I added that latte! The coat I was wearing made it difficult to keep my purse on one shoulder, and I could only carry one bag on my other shoulder so I had one hanging off my arm. And the latte which wasn’t on my list at all! There were too many unrecorded variable.
List Technique #2
In my weekly plan I had an entry under one of my projects that remained unchecked. It said, simply “Online Research”. What the hell did I mean by that? I didn’t really know when I put it in, so there was no way I could do it or know that I’d done it. As I began to do the research–and I did–I should have gone in and either amended it, or added to it so I could be checking off elements. Instead, I had an unfinished task.
It was also pretty open-ended. It would have been much easier to accomplish something that said “2 hours of research related to XYZ project”. That is time-limited and specific to a project. Then if I was considering what to do, I could decide what I could complete in 2 hours or less or if there was a way to make it more specific so it could be done in chunks.
List Technique #3
I fail to make a list at all. Somewhere I may have written down that I needed to ship my Pussyhats on Thursday. But it isn’t on my lists, and shortly before I needed to take the package to the post office not only did I realize that I needed to get the package ready, but:
- the individual hat labels needed to be cut up, filled out, and attached to the hats;
- the ends needed to be worked in;
- I needed a shipping label (turned out I would need 2) for the package;
- I didn’t have the proper USPS envelope(s) to mail them.
It was a good thing that I thought of it when I did. I ended up standing at the post office as they were closing, taping the labels onto the envelopes.
Assorted Other Non-winning List Techniques
#4 I make lists that are just jots of things, but later on it is unclear what their purpose was or whether I should save them.
#5 I make lists and never look at them again.
#6 I mix up the personal with the professional.
#8 I make lists that record everything I’m thinking about doing, without regard to time needed, level of difficulty, importance, or whether they are just drifting through my head. Then I have lists that I never complete because there is always something that I just wanted to remember.
Good List Technique A
What really got me thinking about my list technique was as I was rereading one of my blogs about finishing. Have you ever made an entry that said “finish ____________”. Let’s say that entry said “Finish cable hat”. What does that entail? Think if it looked like this instead:
Finish cable hat
work final four decrease rounds [30 min]
work 3-needle bind off [10 min]
work in ends [5 min]
take gauge [5 min]
wet block and dry [30 min + overnight]
take blocked gauge [5 min]
I can see that I have about 45 minutes of work before I can wet block, then it needs to dry overnight. This list technique makes it really specific and also gives me things I can check off if I can’t do everything in one swoop. By putting time with it, it might tell me that I need to do it earlier in the evening if I want to wet block it that night.
Good List Technique B
Think of how you can get stalled on a project, either at the end [Finishing!] or somewhere along the way. What if at that point you made a list like the one above? Finishing a cardigan can have lots of details that take some time, even if everything goes just as planned.
Without specificity, you will soon end up feeling discouraged because IT IS TAKING SO LONG even if it is just taking as long as it should.
Good List Technique C
Or maybe you are having trouble making the shaping work with the pattern on either side at the armholes. What do you need to do to make it come out? Do you need to figure out how to make the decreases look the same? Do you need to figure out how to work the pattern after the shaping begins? Does that mean making a chart? Are you afraid that it isn’t the right size? I
This may need a combination of listing the things you need to understand or clarify and a list of to dos. Maybe it is two lists. It might look like this:
Figure out Back Armhole Shaping
- Why does the left armhole look different than the right armhole?
- check that I’m working pattern correctly as I decrease.
- make a chart of the right armhole shaping, showing the pattern.
- make a chart of the left armhole shaping, showing the pattern.
- check that I’m working pattern correctly as I decrease.
- Take measurements of Back to check fit.
- take my back measurement
- compare measurements and check ease
- What are the total number of stitches I need to get rid of on each side.
- check the shoulder width/stitch counts on pattern
- check the shaping on the patterns and compare to garment
A good list is your friend! Make it even better by adding in an estimate of time needed for each item. It doesn’t really matter if it is entirely accurate, but it will help you plan better.