As a PM (Program Manager) at Microsoft, one of the things I end up doing a lot is making lists. Lists of priorities, lists of features, lists of scenarios, lists of open issues, lists of ideas, etc.
I know a lot of people makes lists. But what’s the difference that makes the difference?
I think it’s three things:
As the joke goes, a plan is a lists of things you’ll never do. That’s what happens when you fall into analysis-paralysis or don’t take action. (BTW – action and timeboxing are the cure for analysis-paralysis)
A "laundry list" is not an actionable list because it’s just a random dump of things. The laundry list becomes actionable when you rank and prioritize the items, turning it into an "ordered list."
Precision is an important attribute. Precision simply means filtering out everything that’s not directly relevant. I find the most valuable lists are precise. I’d rather have two precise lists, than one mixed up list. A precise list of actions, or a precise list of ideas, or a precise list of issues is a thing of beauty. It’s the elegance before the action.
There are list makers and there are list doers. Having a list is a start, but action is what really makes any list valuable. An effective list is a springboard for the right actions.
If you’re an avid list maker, challenge yourself to be a skilled list doer. It’s a key to making things happen, and action is the difference that makes the difference.