Should We All Use Lists?

I read a recent article in the GTD News in which David Allen noted that he often gets told by others that he has too many lists.  Click here to read “Why Lists are a Dirty Word.”

The critics go a step further and imply that there’s no way that many lists could work for them.  He notes that “my educated guess is that 99 percent of people’s responses (to lists) are some version of “Yuck! Back Away!”

His hypothesis is that people have this reaction because 1) Lists are hard work, 2) Lists are scary and 3) Lists are disappointing.  The article goes on to show that these reactions are ill-informed, and with more understanding these feelings would be alleviated.

I think there’s more to this than meets the eye.

My observation of users at very different levels of skill is that multiple or long Lists are useful for some people, but not everyone. Allen doesn’t address this fact in his article, and might be attempting to prove that taking this approach should fit everyone.

In one instance, a person might be unwilling to use multiple lists because this technique doesn’t work once the number of time demands becomes too large.  I have shown in prior posts that different techniques must be used due to the lengthy reviews that are required by lots of items in lists.

In the 2Time system, Yellow Belts use lots of lists.  Both White Belts and Orange Belts (who are lower and higher in skill) might respond with a “Yuck!”, but for very different reasons.   White Belts would be unhappy about the use of a brand new tool, while Oranges would be unwilling to downgrade their current system, simply to use more Lists.  (Quite a few years ago, I unwittingly made this change myself, and saw my capacity to manage time-demands plummet before hastily switching back.)

With a more complete picture, both sets of users can make better decisions, and get past the “Yuck!” in order to make informed changes to their time management systems.  This is the kind of choice that all professionals must make when they discover a tip from a guru, read a book, find a new gadget or discover a new piece of productivity software.

It’s a delicate dance, and users must be ready to switch back to what they were doing if they discover that the changes they are attempting to make have an adverse impact.  This reality is one that’s not acknowledged in the article, but it would help users to see that Lists aren’t meant to be either accepting or rejected in total, but used an an upgrade when they produce individual results.


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