white notebook on the table

How to Get Organized Using Lists

My wife is the queen of lists. She can, with a swipe and a couple of taps, pull up whatever information she needs to plan her next action. For example, she tracks all our shopping lists. If we pop into Home Depot to pick up a gallon of paint, she checks to see what other hardware items we might need, saving a second trip. She has lists of gift ideas, quotes for greeting cards, honey-do’s and much more.

Organized people don’t rely on their memory — they rely on their lists.

Lists are the simplest tool or system for managing your life. They consolidate all your tasks in one place. They can tickle your memory or stimulate your creativity. Lists can be as simple or as complex as you need.

Here is a quick outline of some of the lists you can keep:

  • Reference
    • Address Book
    • Dates
      • Birthday
      • Anniversary
    • Personal information
    • Account information
  • Action
    • To-do
    • Bills to pay
    • Projects
    • Communication
    • Planning
    • Context-based
  • Shopping
    • Groceries
    • Clothing
    • Household
    • Gifts
  • Ideas
    • Someday/Maybe
    • Quotations
    • Blog content
    • Learning Opportunities
    • Entertainment
      • Movies
      • Books
      • Music
      • Restaurants

These are a few I keep:

Account and $ numbers

…credit card #s, PIN #s, etc. (Be careful with this list. It should be encrypted and protected with a strong password)

Basic personal numbers (self and family members)

…driver’s license, social security, insurance policies, whatever you may need for yourself and others when filling out forms. (ditto on encryption)


…(if you don’t put them in your calendar system), group by date, as reviewable (those during a month, put in tickler for that month, etc.)


…organized by people and/or a general list of neat things to buy for others and where to get them. Great for birthdays, ad-hoc niceness, and Christmas time.

Ideas I don’t know what to do with, now that I’ve had them…

…we all have them, and they don’t fit anywhere except in an “they don’t fit anywhere” place


…for business or pleasure, to review for ideas instead of same-old same-old.

Style or product numbers I may need when I’m buying things

…oil filter, vacuum cleaner bags, labeler cassettes, etc.

Once you have your lists in place and in your planner, putting them to work should be easy.

If you want an interesting perspective on our use of lists, read the Sasha Cagen book, To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us.

What are some of the lists you use? Comment below