Saturday, October 24, 2009

The JackPot!

I just found the mother load of all checklist template. If you use Google docs, there are a wealth of templates posted by fellow list, template, and presentation enthusiasts including some Google employees. Subjects range from resume builders, scrapbook albums, budget planners, project milestone charts, and wedding planning.

All of these templates are stored in the cloud, you can download. You can set your own permissions for viewing and editing. You can even embed these templates into your own blog or website.

Some of my favorites
Personal Monthly Budget

Wedding Planning

Monday, August 10, 2009

Think Lists are Boring?

Think again!

Daryl Furuyama at WhiteHatBlackBox has created a fun way to keep track of your to-do lists by making a game of it.  Each task is represented by a Space Invaders icon which you can gleefully shoot down and take as a trophy once you've accomplish them.  These trophy are then taken off the current to-do list which helps to remove the clutter.  I can imagine that this would be a great tool to teach kids on how to become organized.  Rather than doling out stickers or keeping track of stars, tasks around the house could be given in the form of a different invader that needs to be captured.  What the prize is at the end is completely up to you!

This program is free for downloading at WhiteHatBlackBox.  

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Bucket List

Last week, we watched The Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman who are on a quest to experience everything on their list before they "kick the bucket" from their diagnosed illnesses.  I can't say I relate to most of the items on their list (much of it skewed for those with much more testosterone), but I like the concept of having the hope of experiencing something extraordinary before I die.  Compared to most people, I've already lived an extraordinary life - traveled much of the world, had many various careers, have a wonderful family and close friends, come to know Christ.  But like Morgan Freeman, I have anticipation and hope for something more.  Below is my modification of the bucket list.

1.    Witness something truly majestic   

2.    Help a complete stranger for the common good

3.    Laugh till I cry

4.    Drive a Shelby Mustang  --> Take my son, Gabriel, to Disneyland

5.    Kiss the most beautiful girl in the world -->  Retire and take care of my grandkids like my mom is helping me do today with Gabriel

6.    Get a tattoo --> Get a makeover and go to a black and white ball 

7.    Skydiving -->  Take an Alaskan cruise in the summer

8.    Visit Stonehenge <-- I've done this one!

9.    Spend a week at the Louvre  <-- DIdn't spend a week but have gone to the Louvre

10. See Rome  <-- Have done this one

11. Dinner at La Chevre d'Or <--  Cook a seven course gourmet meal

12. See the Pyramids  <-- Why not all seven wonders of the world? or those that are left.

13. Get back in touch (previously "Hunt the big cat", added after being earlier added and crossed off)  <-- Simplify my life and live in a house where the living room french doors open to a bubbling brook tucked away in a forest

14. Visit Taj Mahal, India

15. Hong Kong <-- came so close in Singapore

16. Victoria Falls

17. Serengeti

18. Ride the Great Wall of China

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Why I Love Making Lists

Lindon Weeks in his NPR article, 10 Reasons Why We Love Making Lists , rolls his virtual eyes at the proliferation of lists in media and social outlets. Ironically, he himself makes a list for why we love making lists.

Lindon's top 10 Reasons include:
1. Lists bring order to chaos
2. Lists help us remember things
3. Most lists are finite
4. Lists can be meaningful
5. Lists can be as long or as short as necessary
6. Making lists can help make you famous.
7. The word "list" can be tracked back to William Shakespeare
8. Lists relieve stress and focus the mind
9. Lists can force people to say revealing things
10. Lists can keep us from procrastinating

I would agree with #1, 2, 8, and 10. But #4, 5, 7 are not really reasons why we make lists but rather are just characteristics of lists.

To add three more reasons of my own:
1. Lists help us be more efficient in accomplishing our tasks - as they say with the 5 P's - Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Lists are all about planning - why I should buy, my meeting agendas, project timelines. Similar to #8, but being more efficient doesn't necessary help to relieve all your stress because you might just end up with a longer list once you figure out you can accomplish more with less.
2. Lists help us reflect and in reflecting, allows us to learn more about ourselves - Lists such as things that matter to us or what we are thankful for helps us not to lose sight of what is important in life. At the end of the day, does crossing off the last to-do item matter more than setting aside those tasks for more time with family and friends?
3. Lists help with coordination - the online packing list that I used for our trip to Singapore allowed my husband to pack some items for me and allowed my sister to comment on items that she already had that I didn't need to pack. At work, on-line lists help coordinate and track cross-functional action items.

What do all these reasons have in common? I believe that lists can improve our quality of life. Since our time is one of our most valuable resources, lists enables us to live with a sense of purpose - applying ourselves in a way where we can make the most impact. Efficiently working through the mundane/necessary tasks and freeing ourselves to do what we want to do.

How about you? Why do you make lists?

Monday, August 3, 2009

To Do Lists vs. Checklists

Are To-Do Lists different than Checklists? While it might seem a bit nuanced, the distinction is a "To-Do" list is future action oriented while a checklist may or may not be. I can have a checklist for the grocery store, for work, for travel or I can have a checklist of what I have already accomplished in life or a checklist of quality traits that I want in products or in someone I'd like to hire. "To Do" suggests that whatever is on your list is something you have yet "to do" which sometimes takes the form of a schedule or a list of tasks.

In 2007, Neal Conan from NPR conducted an interview with Sasha Cagen, the author of To Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us. Two things struck me from the interview - 1. how many people still keep their lists on paper even though there is a plethora of technology to help us keep our notes organized and 2. why 30 seems to be the age where many people feel like you need to have achieved a certain level of success to "justify your existence." Made my wonder what would be on my list? When I was straight out of college, I did make a list of what I wanted to do before I die and "milk a cow" was on that list - perhaps I was running out of ideas.

Sasha's blog now turned full website solicited new handwritten to-do lists. Why handwritten? Because perhaps more important than the list itself is how your organize your thoughts, your handwriting, and how you express yourself through colors, images, etc. I selected a random page (below) from my personal notebook. Though black and white, the ink was actually purple with "actual" activities in red. Some these entries are one word triggers. Looking back, I'm amazed at how life was so much "busier" before my son was born.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Travel Lite

For a recent trip overseas to visit my sister and her family in Singapore, my main goal was to travel light. Having a 7 month old in tow made this even more challenging, trying to remember all his creature comforts so he could rest comfortably both on the plane and in a strange place. This Google Docs spreadsheet was the actual spreadsheet that we used - note that toiletries and some common sense items have been omitted. Having traveled a bit, we don't bother listing out every clothing item, but rather we base our needs on the number of days and nights we'll be away. For example, this particular trip was 16 days and nights, so we figured we'll need at least one week's worth of clothes and underwear which can be washed and dried throughout the week. It also depends on if we're staying with relatives or in hotels with access to washer/dryer.

The nice thing about online spreadsheets is that it can be edited in real time. My sister "X"ed the items that she already had (e.g. diapers since she has a 1 year old) so it cut down our space by half - just enough space for those last minute gifts. My husband and mom could also review the lists on their PDAs and add to the baby items and help me pack various shared items that I might have forgotten.

There are plenty of other website that also have travel lists. Hopefully one of them will work for you.

General packing advise:
Specialized packing advise:
  • TripAdvisor - Each country has an advisory on what to pack. Just type in a country and click on the "Before You Go" link on the left hand navigation bar. Example: Thing to pack and NOT to pack for a trip to Cuba.
  • Lonely Planet - Similar to TripAdvisor, but you have to do some digging for specialized packing lists. Example: Packing list for Asia
  • Lastly (or perhaps first thing to check) is a simple Google search on "What to pack [insert destination]" If you every take a trip to my home state of California, here's a pretty good search result on packing lists for the Bay Area based on community feedback.
Do you have a favorite packing list technique or checklist that you use?

Lists Make Women Better Managers?

My Monday morning routine at work always starts out with a review of the previous to-do list and a short planning session of action items that I need to accomplish for the day. Lists get consolidated and new items get added on. In my college-ruled 8x11 notebook, I have Post-It flags taped onto the back flap for easy access and I color code my pages by "To-Dos" (short and long term), "1:1 sessions" and references. Though I don't usually write this on my list, the first item is always to get through the inbox and do a quick sort according to the Getting Things Done Method of answer now, monitor or delete. I was already doing this before taking the GTD course at work, but now there's a name for what I was doing.

Does all this organization make me a better manager though? I agree with Carol Smith in her interview "No Doubts: Women are Better Managers" with the NY Times that it's not the we make lists, but rather that we will DO what's on our to-do list that makes us more effective.

"I have been in this career for many years and I have seen, and this is a generalization, that women are better list-makers. They will do their to-do list. They will prioritize their to-do list. They will get through their to-do list. Maybe it’s because we do shopping lists. And if we have a problem — again, as a generalization — we will confront the problem and deal with it head-on.

I think that has really made me good at managing people, because I think they always know that they’re going to get a real answer."

Now back to work...

Friday, July 24, 2009

My First Baby List

Like most parents, when we found out we were having our first baby, we were not only estactic but wanted to give him everything that he would need to be comfortable and to thrive. The tricky part was knowing what was absolutely necessary to buy versus what was just hype. My strategy for putting together a registry was to first ask my mommy friends and family three simple questions, 1. what could you not live without in the first few months for the baby? 2. for yourself? 3. for your husband? For question three, they all unanimously said essentially "your husband doesn't need anything." While inquiring, friends were helpful in offering other advise as well as items they were no longer using which saved us from buying items that we want to "try" but didn't know if we wanted to invest in (e.g. Euro bathtub) as well as larger items that we wouldn't have the space to store when we were done (e.g. crib)

Next, I scoured the web for other people's opinions, Babies R Us buying guide, Baby Bargains book, and consolidated everything in the basic baby items, nice to have items, and items for mom. The key was to keep the list as simple as possible.

Taking this list to start the baby registry was helpful in keeping me focused. It's so easy to get distracted by all the "cute but unnecessary" items and to get ahead of yourself and getting things you won't use for at least 6 months like bibs and baby proofing supplies. The list is also helpful if you're building your registry online first. Of course nothing can replace recent mommy friends who are willing to help you register on-site at the store and point out what you might have inadvertently left of your checklist.

I uploaded my baby checklist to Google docs for you to use and I will continue to update it and make it better based on your suggestions. Make it your own by creating a copy for yourself - Go to "File" in the Toolbar and click "Create a Copy". For recommendations, I hyperlinked some of the cells (in blue) to the actual product website, article, etc.

Hope you find this useful as you prepare to bring home your bundle of joy.
One thing to keep in mind is that as long as your baby has enough to eat, a place to sleep and lots of love, he/she will have a good start to life.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How it All Started

My love for lists started when I moved to the United States from Taiwan in the first grade. To learn English, my parents gave me a diary and I would enjoy visualizing each room in the house and list out everything that I could think of in each room. The kitchen was my favorite - all the utensils, spices, appliances. Of course, I couldn't spell anything so I would ask my sister to translate.

Eventually, the lists became detailed schedules. In college, I would write out my schedule in black ink (yes, it had to be black) in a Franklin planner and then as the day went on, I would write down in red ink what actually happened that day. If I got 90% done what I planned to do, then it was considered a good day where much was accomplished. Even after I graduated from the Franklin planner, I would create my own hour by hour/minute by minute schedule to the extent my family would tease me about my OCD.

I crave checklists as well and the best are those that are the aggregation of "must haves" from friends and family with subjects ranging from packing lists to wedding planning to baby planning.

To those who share in my compulsion to have a list or checklist for everything this blog is for you. My goal is to over time to develop a library of open source checklists that I can share with you. Feel free to modify them and I hope you will find them useful!