For the Love of Lists

Hats off to 2012! Wherever you are, I hope you’re able to reflect on the highs and lows of the year with honesty and humility. Among the many year-in-reviews and recap videos, I found this one particularly gut-wrenching- 2012: What Brought Us Together

Gazing between boroughs on the Brooklyn Bridge. My favorite photo from 2012 (snapped from my iPhone, no less) represents both the grandeur of Manhattan and all the chaos, sweat, and tears this concrete kingdom afforded me in 2012.

Gazing between boroughs on the Brooklyn Bridge. My favorite photo from 2012 (snapped from my iPhone) represents the grandeur of Manhattan and all the shaken beauty this concrete kingdom afforded me this year.

With 2013 fast approaching, it’s list time. I love these handy things. They’re the most basic tool to getting organized when one actually keeps track of them and checks consistently. While charting course for the New Year, I’ve started to think about the ways I can make 2013 better – more authentic, challenging, and meaningful – through…you guessed it!…lists.

Charlie O’Donnell, partner and founder of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, writes a weekly newsletter about tech events in NYC. (Sidenote: If you are new to the space and want a quick way to get acquainted with NYC tech, ‘This Week In NYC Innovation‘ is a great place to start.)

Last week, he included a compilation of list topics to think about for the new year, which I found very useful:

  • Three people I’m actually friends with that I would like to be better friends with.
  • Ten people I should know, but don’t.
  • Five people I’d like to help be successful.
  • Three things I’d like to learn.
  • A physical goal (a time, a measurement, or just being able to be more bendy, less creaky, etc.)
  • An emotional goal.
  • Something you’d like to close the book on and move on from.
  • Three ways you’re going to try to get more sleep.
  • Read a book a month…list the first three you’re going to read.  (Might I suggest re-reading the Great Gatsby before summer.)
  • Five people you feel like you’re supposed to be friends with, but really don’t like, that you’re going to unfriend/disconnect/ignore.
  • Three things that you’ve been procrastinating on that you’re going to get done.

I like this list for its holistic approach. It takes into account practical, emotional, physical, and educational goals. There’s also heavy emphasis on improving relationships, while understanding that not all interactions are created equal (ie. friendships vs. idols vs. mentorships, even un-friendships are included).

I’m sharing a few of my goals from this list because I firmly believe if it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist. Here’s to accountability!

3 Things I’d Like to Learn This Year:

  1. How to cook (I’m keeping a list of my favorite dishes and recipes to learn – open to additions!)
  2. Adobe Creative Suite (InDesign, PhotoShop, Illustrator – open to help!)
  3. Bible Literacy (open to fellow faith buddies)

A Physical Goal

  • Be able to do this without sounding or looking like a gorilla. (Getting rid of the pooch would be nice too.)

3 Ways to Get More Sleep

  1. Having a set bed time. I’m setting it for 11:30 – 7:30 (for now) which gives me a healthy 8 hours.
  2. Completely turning off an hour before bed. That means, winding down and turning off the computer/TV by 10:30 pm.
  3. (Hm, I can only come up with two.)

2013 Book-a-Month List (in no particular order; open to other good reads)

  1. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo
  2. On the Road, by Jack Keruoac
  3. The Education of Henry Adams, by Henry Adams
  4. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
  5. Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo
  6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
  7. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz
  8. The Influencing Machine, by Brooke Gladstone
  9. Change by Design, by Tim Brown
  10. Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg
  11. St Paul Trois Ch Teaux, by C. Joybell C.
  12. The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg

3 Things I’ve been procrastinating on that WILL get done

  1. Submitting to Thought Catalog
  2. Exercising
  3. Calling a loved one..because in this day and age, it doesn’t happen enough.

The full list of notes are currently scribbled in my TextEdit, and I’m well aware many will remain unfulfilled. Life tends to begin (how dare it), pushing these goals to the dusty, untouched crevices of the mind. Hard to say which will stick and which will be thrown to the wind. Life is unpredictable. Either way, it’s here for the love of lists.

“You may not know where you’re going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you.” 

C. Joybell C.

Happy New Year! I wish you all a fruitful 2013 with many healthy happenings.

3 Lessons in Organization

Organizations seek organized people.  I used to think I was organized. I made to-do lists, after all. But when I couldn’t find those lists…

So, I’m not very organized. It took me the entire span of college and several failed jobs to realize that. But once you recognize your organizational flaw, there are good habits you can cultivate to turn the tables in your favor. Here are some lessons learned from my first professional ‘office’ experience that I think are useful:

Lesson 1:

Write everything down.

Everything. Don’t trust yourself to remember. I used to think I had a great memory, based mostly on the fact that I memorized more multiplication tables than anyone else in my 4th grade class. I now see my flawed self-evaluation: not only was that more than 10 years ago, back then I didn’t have to remember much more than multiplication tables and the way back home. Life is no longer so straightforward. Each day brings forth a new set of tasks and changing facets.

At the start of your day, write absolutely everything you need to do, including the most mundane. It’s not enough to ‘make a mental note’; the note will magically disappear. In law, nothing exists unless it’s written down and the same applies here. I’ve dropped the ball several times with my co-workers and loved ones, and it hurts your reputation. Even with my Mom, I can’t count the number of times I’ve forgotten to call her back (all-important). Make a concrete note. Write everything down.

Lesson 2:


You can write everything down but if it’s scribbled in a million different places, you’ll spend more time sorting through the scraps than actually getting things done.

This has been my biggest problem. My approach is often ‘grab what’s nearest and start writing when something comes to mind’. My to-do lists are scribbled on random scraps of paper, post-its, my hand, and on occasion, the planner I’m supposed to use. Digitally, I adopted way too many tools to ‘help’ me: Evernote, Google Docs,, Wunderlist, the list goes on…

I don’t recommend one tool over the other, but I would recommend one. Anyone. It doesn’t matter what, just pick something and run with it. If you hear of a newer, cooler, neater platform, don’t try it. You’ll end up having too many digital platforms to sign in to , which means more log-ins and passwords to keep track of and more mental energy wasted trying to find all the random bits of your life.

Personally, I prefer the old-school method: writing lists out by hand. It commits things to memory and it’s less time staring at a screen (something we could all use more of). But, everyone has different styles, so do what’s easiest for you.

Centralizing = Simplifying

Lesson 3:

It’s about perception.

When all else fails, at least pretend to be organized. Contrary to popular belief, appearing scattered or super busy does not increase people’s faith in your productivity. (Wait, what…me?)

Create an external and internal structure. If you can’t keep all of your personal to-do lists in one place, at least make one for the tasks directly relevant to your co-workers…and share it. Make it look pretty with bullets and compact lists:

  • urgent (top priority – things that will get done immediately)
  • important (second priority – things that will get done soon)
  • ongoing (third priority – things that will get done in the future)

Place deadlines on the urgent task items, so people know when to expect something from you. This keeps you accountable. If you don’t get something done by a listed deadline, everyone knows. This is also helpful for transparency; now your team doesn’t have to question whether you’re doing work or dawdling on Facebook (and even if you are, at least they know what you theoretically should be doing).

Lastly, this is important because sometimes the most you can do is calm people’s nerves. When things are all over the place, it gives people reason to believe you’re disorganized and unaware of what’s going on. Even if that’s not the case (I know plenty of people who are highly efficient without all of these organizational systems), having some sort of external-facing superficial organization shows you know what needs to be done, and puts people at ease.  Yes, appeasement, may in fact, be the most important value-add at the end of the day.


Organization is key in the workplace, but also life. Once these habits are cultivated, space is made for the real meat and potatoes. You spend less time searching for things and more time getting things done.  There’s no better feeling than that.