The link between lists and leadership

Sir Richard Branson is a man I have long admired.  He is a man of inspiration and integrity, grounded in collaboration, ethics and doing the right thing.  It is not surprising that he is one of the world’s most successful and likable corporate leaders. So, I hope Sir Richard doesn’t mind my sharing his short essay “New Year’s Resolutions and making lists.”

Ever since I was a young boy I have made lists of goals and resolutions. It’s how I make sense of the ideas in my head, the suggestions I receive, and the progress we are making. What’s more, if I didn’t write down all of my ideas and resolutions, I might forget them!

Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson
(photo by John Armstrong)

Here are 10 simple steps for making a list that you will be able to stick to:

  1. Write down every single idea you have. No idea is too small, and no idea is too big either.
  2. Always carry a notebook. You need somewhere to write your ideas down, and while using a folder on your phone is better than nothing, a piece of paper is far more memorable.
  3. Find a list method that works for you. Doodles, bullet-points, charts what suits you best?  I find a combination of short phrases and scribbled pictures works best for me.
  4. Make a list of small, manageable tasks to complete every day. Cut your day up into chunks, and you’ll get lots more done.
  5. Mark off every completed task. There are few more satisfying things than ticking off a job well done.
  6. Make your goals measurable so you know if your plans are working. There’s no point setting targets if you don’t know if you are hitting them.
  7. Set far off, outlandish goals. Resolutions shouldn’t just have short-term endpoints. What do you want to have achieved in five years’ time? How about 50 years?
  8. Include personal goals in your lists, not just business. There’s no real separation between work and life, it’s all just living. The same goes for lists.
  9. Share your goals with others. You can help motivate each other further and hold each other to account. But remember that, in the end, you are doing this for yourself.
  10. Celebrate your successes then make new lists of new goals. The cycle should continue as you make more and more progress. I have boxes and boxes of old notes, filled with old lists, and I’m busy making more.