There’s nothing I love more than a good list, especially at the end of the year, when reflecting and resolution-making abound.
You, too? Then here are 16 lists to make in 2016 that’ll help you do both of those activities, plus get a head start on that job search or promotion you’re planning to ask for.
Make one, or make them all—I promise every single one is more fun than your to-do list.
1. Companies You Want to Work For
This is a no-brainer if you’re actively job-searching: Having a list with your favorite companies, their websites, any contacts you have there, and links to their jobs pages makes hunting for openings a whole lot easier. But even if you’re not, this is good to have as part of your career emergency plan. (You have that, right?)
2. 10 Innovative Ideas Off the Top of Your Head
I got this idea from Muse Master Coach John Gannon: Start each day by writing down 10 ideas you have about a specific subject—something related to your job, an industry trend, whatever. As he writes, “[Entrepreneur James Altucher] says that if you generate 10 ideas a day, every day, for six months straight that you will become an ‘Idea Machine’—someone who can come up with great ideas in any situation about any topic. And you can use these ideas for your own benefit, or send the list to someone who could use them—whether that’s your boss, another team at work, or a friend.”
3. People You Should Know to Get Ahead
Think: People who work for your dream companies, people who would be awesome mentors, people further ahead than you on your career path—really anyone who will inspire you to push yourself. Having this makes networking a whole lot more efficient. Oh, and don’t be afraid to put a few “reach” people on your list, too! Arianna Huffington was on mine, and I met her at an event a few months later.
4. Books You Want to Read
Because next time you need a good read, you don’t want to spend hours browsing Goodreads when you could be deep into Chapter 3. Want a ready-made list to make your life even easier? Here are 20 books the world’s most successful people recommend you pick up.
5. What You Want to Happen in 2016
A lot of us set resolutions for the year ahead, but I like framing this exercise as: What do I want to happen in the next year? Feel free to include both work-related goals and personal goals. And then couple this list with…
6. What You Want to Leave in 2015
Are there bad habits you want to give up, work responsibilities you’d like to trade for more advanced tasks, even people you’d like to stop talking to? Add them to a list as a reminder that, come 2016, your time and energy is better spent elsewhere.
7. Your Career Bucket List
Once you’ve done your annual planning, now’s the time to dream big. Do you want to work abroad? Write a book? Start a company? Found a nonprofit? Have a corner office with a view of Central Park? Add it to this list, then keep it somewhere you can refer to when you’re feeling aimless.
8. “Got a Minute?” To-Dos
There are plenty of times you have a few minutes to spare—like when you’re on hold or waiting for a meeting to start. Rather than wasting those moments on Facebook, make a list of tiny to-dos you could get done. Here’s a starter list you can build from.
9. “Got a Slow Day?” To-Dos
There also might be times you have a few hours—even a full day—to spare. (Stuck in the office during the holidays, anyone?) Make a list of back-burner projects at work (or at home) that you want to get done…someday.
10. A “Not Right Now” List
Speaking of someday, if you want to achieve all those goals you’ve set out, you’re likely going to need to deprioritize less important tasks. So think of this an opposite-day list: Add things you’re absolutely, positively not going to spend time on—for now. As entrepreneur Frank Addante writes for Inc.: “It’s a list on which you put things that you don’t have time to work on right now, but you don’t want to take off your To-Do list. As the adage says, ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ If you unclutter your mind, you’ll be more effective in getting things done.”
11. Your Biggest Accomplishments
Start by making a list of 10 things you accomplished in 2015 that you’re really, really proud of. Then, every time you do something awesome this year, add it to the list. It’s a great motivator when you’re feeling like nothing’s going right, and it’ll make updating your resume a whole lot easier.
12. Lunches to Make
In 2015, I had a goal to bring my lunch to work more. (I didn’t do as well as I’d liked.) But what helped the most was creating a list of recipes I could make, complete with the ingredients I needed to add to my shopping list. It’s sort of like your own little menu. A few of my favorites? Healthy lasagna, mason jar salads, and Thai chicken lettuce wraps.
13. What You’re Grateful For
You’ve likely read about the benefits of focusing daily on the things you’re thankful for. Make that easier on yourself by turning them into a list and posting it someplace you’ll see often. (Bonus career karma points if at least a few of them are work-related.)
14. Things You Do Better Than Most People
This idea comes from writer Minda Zetlin: Create a list of “your core competencies, the things you can build your success on.” This has several benefits (other than a confidence boost). For starters, it’ll help you really focus on what sets you apart from others when you’re writing cover letters, your LinkedIn profile, or your personal website copy. It’s also a good gut check—if you realize that your current job rarely lets you utilize your top skills and abilities, it might be time for a change.
15. Things You Want to Try
There are probably activities you’ve thought about trying at some point—learning Photoshop, trying public speaking, mentoring a junior employee—but you don’t put them on any of these other lists because, well, you don’t really know if you’d like them. Put those activities here as a reminder, and next time you’re feeling bored, give one of them a whirl.
16. Sayings to Live By
This final idea comes from Artjournalist (which also has a great list of list prompts): a “Manifesto list.” The author asks, “What are some words and phrases to live by that are part of your life’s manifesto? Make a list of sayings to live by.”
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