Top 10 Things to Remember When Using The Long List
Saturday, September 8, 2018 at 10:03
Mark Forster

1. Use Little and Often. This is one of the most important principles in all of time management theory. The secret of success in any field is regular, consistent attention - not huge one-off bursts of activity.

2. Resistance Doesn’t Exist. If you tell yourself you’re resisting something, you will resist it. What has happened is that you have created that resistance out of nothing. In fact the feelings we identify as resistance are just your intuition saying “Not yet” or “Not at all”. Accept them as such.

3. Everything Is Equally Easy. What I’m referring to here is not the objective difficulty of the task, but the ease with which we mentally approach a task. This is where “little and often” comes in. The old saying is “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”. What the saying omits is that a journey of two hundred yards also starts with a single step. The first step of writing a short blog article is the same as the first step of writing an 80,000 word novel . You just start. 

4. Trust Your Intuition. Get out of your head the idea that intuition is a magic voice from the gods telling you what to do. Intuition is your subconscious mind assessing all the information and experience known to it and producing an answer. The thing to note here is that you can only act intuitively in a situation in which you have knowledge and experience. A fire chief acts intuitively in a major fire. A fighter pilot acts intuitively when faced with a battle situation. Put either of them in the other’s shoes and they would have no idea what to do. In the same way your experience and knowledge of your own life and work enables you to act intuitively. The Long List acts as a vehicle for your intuition to work on. It will give you the best answer that your knowledge and experience can provide.

5. Keep Moving

It’s important not to forget the “often” in “little and often”. This applies to all sizes of projects. Doing a huge amount of work on something and then leaving it for weeks or months is worse than doing nothing at all. You’ve wasted the time you did put in and could have used it for other things. You can keep on top of almost anything by giving it regular focused attention. If you want to be keeping on top of a lot of things then you need to be moving quickly among them.

6. The List Reflects You

You write the list. You work the list. That puts a lot of information on the page about you. This is real information which your intuition can use. The great advantage of The Long List format is that it’s all there - what you want to do, what you have done and what you haven’t done. Just by looking at the list you can see what’s moving and what isn’t.

7. Break Things Down

One way of handling a project is to break it down into every task you can currently do and enter them all onto the list. Don’t put things on the list which cannot be done at the present time - these should be entered in a reminder system to be brought forward at the right time. Once you have done one task, it may open up the way to further tasks which can be entered on the list in their turn.

8. Lump Things Together

Another way of handling a project is just to put the project name on the list without attempting to break it down any further. Then when the project is selected by the scanning process work on it for as long as you wish. This approach suits some projects better than others. I have a mixture of 7. and 8. on my list.

9. Do Lots of Thinking

The first step with almost any project or non-routine task is to think how to proceed with it. You don’t need at this stage to plan the whole thing out to the end, though planning will be part of the process eventually. Rather it’s a time for collecting ideas, some of which will work out and some which won’t. The thinking processes described in my book Secrets of Productive People are excellent for doing this.

10. Quality Equals Quantity

We’re usually told that quality is more important than quantity, but this is misleading. Good quality comes from quantity. This is why your intuition will almost certainly focus at the beginning on getting simple routines established in your work life. Don’t mistake this for resistance to the important stuff (see 2. above). The important stuff will be much easier when you are not constantly fighting your own lack of organization. Consistency is the key here, and consistency involves a lot of practice.


For further reading:

Top Ten Advantages of The Long List

Article originally appeared on Get Everything Done (
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