A List Like No Other

25.07.2020 |

Episode #3 of the course How to stay focused: Ten top hacks for motivation by K.C. Finn


I am a huge fan of lists. Whether it’s for domestic tasks in the home, work-based jobs, or even for leisure activities, making a list of everything that needs to be done checks me into some special realm of organizational bliss in my brain. But even for those who are not naturally list-minded, this bright and inspiring visual method is sure to enable you to see how your broken-down tasks can soon build back up into empowering achievements.


The Theory

Everyone knows how to make a basic to-do list, with a set of tasks and tick-boxes in order to scratch them off when they’re complete. And it’s true that when some people see a huge, faceless list of tasks in front of them which they have to complete, that effect can be even more frightening than observing the project as a whole. So how do we combat these monotonies and fears?

The method we’re going to explore today employs visual stimuli like color-coding, imagery, text size, and placement in order to cultivate a better habit of organization and help your brain retain that list of broken-down tasks in order to complete them on time. Again, this is a practice best done by hand, for the kinesthetic method of writing and coding your lists helps you to embed the words into your memory better and gets your brain thinking about the tasks at hand.


In Practice

There are different ways in which you might code and present your to-do list depending on the nature of your work, but I’m going to cover the basic visual approaches that should apply to most situations. In Lesson Two, we discussed the strategy of breaking your work down into more achievable tasks, so it’s handy to have a list of those small tasks here for reference to see how your coding system might work.

The Colour Code: On a fresh notebook page with plenty of space, decide on the projects and types of work you need to accomplish that day. Set a color for each type depending on what you have available. Be sure that you write each task down in colored groupings so you can see how much of each type you’re working on, for example, there may be three design tasks in red, four writing tasks in blue, and two correspondence tasks in green. This can help you to switch between different types of work when you feel yourself getting bored.

The Shape Code: You can employ the use of shapes like squares, stars, and triangles to signify the priority or difficulty of different tasks. For example, if you have urgent tasks marked with stars, crossing them off later will give you a sense of relief, and if you mark easier tasks with triangles, you can refer to them quickly when you feel your focus slipping, and need something a little simpler to focus on for a while.

The Text Code: If you need a motivation boost, remember to add text or numerical notes to your tasks to indicate a percentage or part of work that will be complete when this is done. For example, you could add: “50% complete at this stage” to a task to motivate yourself to reach an official halfway point on your work.



It takes a little practice, but once you’ve found the coding system that works for you, making a daily to-do list and completing it will be a confidence-building exercise that allows you to celebrate every small victory. The trick is not to overload your list or make it too complicated for yourself at the day’s start. Remember: you can always add more later if you’re ahead of yourself, so start small and simple and work your way up.

In the next lesson, you’ll pick up a vital time management strategy to trick your brain into working for longer. This technique will teach you how to stop clock-watching and make time fly whilst you’re working, whilst also reminding you to take well-earned breaks. Best of all, it’s really easy to achieve.

See you then!



Recommended reading

If this methodology for visual lists and short, sharp goals has got you hooked, you might want to look into the wider world of Bullet Journaling with this handy introduction.


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