8 Lists You Should Be Writing

My to do list for July 4th, 2009. Back when I still thought tanning and using Rogers was a good idea.

Writing lists can help to organize and better your life in obvious but also unexpected ways. There’s been a lot of hype around bullet journals lately. As pretty as they are, the organization and detail that goes into them can be daunting. All I’m suggesting is the simplest form of list-making. You don’t need fancy pens or rulers or a plan. You only need a notebook that’s slim enough to fit in your purse (the idea is to take it with you everywhere), sturdy enough not to fall apart before you’ve reached the last page, with a cover that you’ll be happy looking at. I’ve been keeping notebooks of lists for almost a decade. Every so often I’ll haul them out of my nostalgia box and revisit what was happening at any given point in the past ten years of my life just by reading my lists. The idea is to keep all relevant day-to-day information in an easily accessible place. I keep mine in chronological order. Important lists you review often can be marked with a Post-It. Here are the lists you should be writing.

To Do

The best part about to do lists is filling in that little box once you’re finished a task. I’ll even add things to the list after I’ve already done them just for the sweet satisfaction of checking it off the list. Whatever task you don’t complete, add it to tomorrow’s list. A task can be anything from a chore to an appointment to a date with a friend. You’ll find that you’re much more productive and efficient when you’ve got a game plan for the day. Once you start keeping a daily to do list, you can use the blank space and margins to record random thoughts and ideas. This is where pen and paper prove simpler than relying on specialized apps; each day you have a single page that acts as a document of your actions and thoughts.

Things I Want

This is where you write down all the little luxuries you know you deserve, but can’t afford (or shouldn’t be buying) all at once. For anyone who hates shopping, this list will help you get in and out. For those of you who enjoy shopping a little too much, this will stop you from tripping over that mesmerizing new eyeshadow palette you didn’t know about until just now and allow you to focus on treating yo’self to the treasures you truly want. And if you still can’t stop thinking about that new Urban Decay? Add it to the list.


Writing is a magical, performative act. Using language to achieve action is something we do all the time, like when we text “I promise” to a friend or say “I do” at our wedding. Writing down the best possible version of your future is a great tool in getting that future to materialize. I suggest keeping this at the beginning of your notebook so it’s easy to check back in on to make sure you’re on the right track. I like to keep two Goals lists: short-term (six months) and long-term (five years).

Master Tasks

Just like a to do list, except on a much larger scale. Basically things you should be doing regularly all year. Now that you’ve got your goals set, this is the list that’s going to help you map out how to get there. If one of your goals is to lose ten pounds in the next six months, you might have “Eat healthy”, “Go to the gym”, and “Drink lots of water” on this list. If you were keeping a bullet journal, this would be your habit tracker.


Okay, this one’s self-explanatory. Spend less time at the Metro, avoid the annoyance of getting home just to realize you forgot avocados, and buy more veggies and less Viva Puffs.

Books/Authors to Read

This is a great way to keep recommendations in one place. I used to text myself whenever someone told me about I book I’d love, but I usually have a long list of books to read and it might be awhile before I buy it. (Aside: I also used to text myself names of the people I met while I was out–I cannot stress the success of this networking tool). So when you happen to find yourself in a bookstore, you’ll have the list of authors waiting for you to read their works right there in your purse. You could do the same thing for movies and shows.

Books Read

Keep a list of the books you’ve read. If you borrow books from the library or swap with friends, this will help you keep track. Even if you own the books you’re reading, this list is supremely rewarding as it grows. If you’d rather keep this list hidden because of its diminutive size, there’s a good chance you’ll challenge yourself to read more. How’s that for a fairy-tale outcome?


Write down what you believe, in point-form just like all the other lists. I’ve done this only once, when I was feeling unanchored. I go back to it often and it’s probably my favourite list of all time.


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