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Lists: the career woman's saviour

Every woman loves a list – nothing surprising about that. But I’m not talking about any old list, I’m talking about the upgraded version: the high-performance life management system. In other words, lists that streamline your day and turn your productivity into a true art form.

I read Allison Pearson’s I Don’t Know How She Does It with a sneer. Of course nothing went right for heroine Kate Reddy: she only had one kind of list. A ‘Must Remember’ list. What an amateur. Had she been more serious about her list-making, the book would have been shorter and called something like She Does It Easily Because She Knows A Thing Or Two About Writing Lists. Not such great pull at the box office, though.

Lists and Sub-Lists

Mine (and I won’t claim to be the definitive expert – there are far greater list-masters out there) are sectioned, divided and prioritised. I have lists of lists, and my day revolves around these kinds: work to-do lists, home to-do lists, long-term goals lists, pros-and-cons lists, prioritisation lists, hit lists, and a running checklist whereby I can cross off calls, emails and deliveries due in. Writing this column began, of course, with a list.

They’re all live, ongoing and constantly being amended. Only one list starts fresh each day: a combined tally of urgent or bothersome things that just won’t wait another minute.

Delegation by Lists

Perhaps most valuable are my lists-of-delegation. These are the true secret of making one’s life easier, not harder. Of lightening, not adding to one’s own load. I have lists for my genius assistant Kate; for my children – things for them to remember and check, not me; and lists for my husband Simon, who understandably is not always keen. Potentially weapons of marital destruction, they allocate many a domestic task to his side of the table. But he knows that these lists are what keeps my professional/personal life from falling apart, so he has come to accept their place in our over-stretched lives.

Lists Work

The downside to a life lived by lists is a kind of inertia; things get to a point where they can only happen if you’ve listed them – but I will always find the courage or the energy to do difficult tasks if they’re on my list. My husband claims he finds out more than half of what he needs to know from my lists, so I guess he must find them useful too. He even adds to them – usually to note, ‘write fewer lists’.