Make a List, Check It Often

By, 01/14/2016

Making lists is a popular pastime this stretch of the year, whether they look back at the past 12 months or forward to the next 12. And while some of them may offer cliché or “obvious” advice, lists offer both a quick opportunity to lay out your desired goals—personal, career-related or otherwise—as well as a way to keep yourself accountable on your progress.

In my view, the more specific a list gets, the more effective it is. For example, “save for a rainy day fund” is a wonderful line item to include. But if you don’t determine important details (e.g., how much can you realistically save a month?) and a way to judge success (e.g., by December 2016, I want to have X dollars saved), then your list is virtually useless. While it’s fine to jot down an expansive list as your first draft, I suggest whittling it down after a second and third look. That way, you can focus your energy on making a couple of meaningful, sustainable changes that will go much further than a bunch of ideas that go nowhere. And don’t forget to keep your list somewhere visible to keep yourself honest!