The Big List Approach – How To Build Better, Bigger Lists with Skill

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“People who want to appear clever rely on memory.  People who want to get things done make lists.” — Peter McWilliams

Anybody can create a short list.  But not everybody can can create a useful, actionable, and insightful big list with skill – unless they know a few tricks of how to organize them.

I’ll teach you that here.

You don’t have to love lists to love what they can do for you, especially, if you know how to build a better list.

You can use big lists to manage your ideas, scenarios, user stories,… anything really.

Lists are actually an incredibly effective way to slice and dice information into useful indexes.

I’m going to share what I learned about building better massive lists that I use for everything from organizing massive catalogs of ideas, to backlogs of scenarios and user stories to designing and driving competitive assessments.

The beauty is, the skill of building big lists can help whether you are using them for work, or using them for survival, or using them for learning, or using them for organizing quotes, TV shows, book collections, you name it.

Big Lists are Powerful Tools

One of the most powerful skills you can master in the information age is building better lists.

Big lists can give you the wide angle lens or the bird’s-eye view that you just can’t get from little lists.  (Note – use the right list for the job, but if you don’t have a Big List Approach in your toolbox, you’ll use the wrong tool for the job.)

Information is power and big lists can put powerful information at your fingertips.

You can use big lists to organize and manage massive collections of ideas, insights, and thoughts.  You can use big lists to to manage ideas, user stories, and scenarios with ease.  You can use big lists to create indexes of quotes or resources or songs or whatever.

If you know how to manage massive lists, you can learn faster, be more productive, turn insight into action, and hack massive mounds of information down to size.

Managing Massive Lists is the Mark of a Skilled Program Manager

I’ve learned how to manage massive lists as a Program Manager at Microsoft.

I’ve had to deal with massive lists of user stories, massive lists of ideas, massive lists of features, massive lists of thoughts, massive lists of patterns.

I’ve had to organize massive lists of people, massive lists of action, massive lists of resources.

I’ve had to learn how to create big lists that are actionable and insightful.

And I’ve learned how to put more information at fingertips than is normally possible.

One of the key abilities of an effective program manager is to manage massive lists with skill.

When People Swarm on Problems, They Need to Manage Massive Lists

When people swarm on challenges, they share stories, ideas, and thoughts.

You need a way to capture, consolidate, and share the ground you cover.

You need to keep a list of the ideas about the problem.  And you need to keep a list of the ideas about the solutions.  And you need to keep a list of the insights and inputs that helped inform your creative problem solving to begin with.

If you can manage a big list, then you are way ahead of the game.  You will have an extreme advantage over any individual or team that does not have a way to index the ground they cover.

You really can list your way out of a lot of situations, because so many situations are more complex than they need to be because there’s no index.  It’s like diving into a deep sea of pages in a book, with no table of contents to help you know where you are (or where you’ve been, or where you are going).

You Need to Manage Massive Lists to Keep Resources at Your Fingertips

As part of my job, I research a lot.  I already learned to use massive lists to help create useful indexes of things to help me keep large amounts of information at my fingertips:

  • Lists of people by expertise
  • Lists of resources
  • Lists of books
  • Lists of quotes
  • Lists of ideas

When I research topics, one of the most important things I do is make a list of the terms.  I make a list of the concepts.  I make a list of the experts.  I make a list of the resources.  I make a list of the articles.  I make a list of the books.   I makes a list of the sites.

Within a short period of time, I can find my way around a new topic and I can figure out how to dive deeper, because now I have indexes at my fingertips.

The lists are my indexes, reference points, and reminders, so I don’t waste my brain on ground I’ve covered, and I can get back to where I’ve been, or pick up where I’ve left off.

Two-Column Tables: My Approach for Managing Massive Lists

I call my approach Two-Column Tables, because it’s turned out to be my best way to manage massive lists, in just about any situation.

It’s as simple as is sounds.

I chunk my lists up into a table with two-columns.

The column on the left is my category or theme.   The column on my right are the items in my list

Any giant list can be chunked up into themes or categories, and put into a Two-Column Table.

And this is a great way to manage indexes of ideas, scenarios, or user stories

The Key is the Frame / Categories Approach

What makes this work is that you are grouping list items into meaningful buckets.

Of course you could make separate lists.  But in this case, the power comes from creating a list where you can easily scan across and see everything from a bird’s-eye view.

From this balcony view, you can spot patterns and you can draw insights, that you can’t possibly do if you spread the information out over bunches of places to look.

To create the themes, there are two main ways, and both ways work.

You can create categories, and then go find the rocks.

Or you can gather your rocks then put them into buckets

In general, I gather my rocks, and then group them, to see what sorts of buckets or categories make sense.

But the big thing to avoid is imposing buckets or categories on your information where it doesn’t make sense (and yes, that happens all the time).

Example of a Two-Column Table of Ideas / Scenarios

Here is an example that I think is really helpful to see.  It’s especially powerful for creating an index of ideas.

You can use the approach whether you want to capture everybody’s ideas about the problems, or ideas about the solutions.

This particular example is the result of organizing a large team of people around the world to share ideas on the future of Oil & Gas.   This is from several years ago, but we were trying to figure out how we could use the Cloud to create new opportunities to advance the industry.

It’s really a combination of identifying where the hot spots are, and listing ideas.  The first challenge was figuring out where to focus, but as we created lists, it was like a snowball and it helped build momentum.

Categories for Oil & Gas Ideas / Scenarios

  • Exploration and Development
  • Drilling and Completions
  • Employees and Service Providers
  • Operations and Production
  • Midstream Operations
  • Downstream Operations
  • Marketing
  • Innovation
  • Profitability Management
  • Environment
  • Health and Safety
  • Security
  • Incident Management
Category / Personas Idea / Scenario Title
Exploration and Development
  • Reservoir Exploration and Visualization
  • Drilling Optimization
  • Seismic Study Data Management

View more…

  • Well Site Potential
  • Reservoir Analytics
  • Improved Reservoir Models Based on Production Data
Drilling and Completions
  • Real-Time Connected Rig
  • Well Performance Optimization
  • Project Management to Construct Oil Facilities

View more…

  • Real-Time Data Analysis while Drilling
  • Predictive Modeling
  • Dry Hole Prevention
  • Drilling Risk Reduction
  • Rapid Provisioning for Analytics
Employees and Service Providers
  • Connected Workforce
  • Back Office Operational Agility
  • Social Knowledge Management / Training

View more…

  • Cross-Boundary Collaboration
  • Real-Time Onboarding and Training
  • 360 Customer View of Oil Company [for Service Providers]
  • Seamless Communications
  • Enable Devices and Mobility for Field Personnel
  • Simplify Workflow with Devices
  • Real-Time Guidance/Feedback for Field Personnel Solving Problems
  • Shared Data for Collaboration
  • Mergers and Acquisitions Productivity
  • Customer 360 Degree View (for Service Providers)
Operations and Production
  • Connected Operations
  • Connected Oil Field
  • Predictive Maintenance

View more…

  • Production Efficiency
  • Prediction of Extraction Events
  • Understanding of Reservoir Conditions
  • Oil Lifetime Extension
  • Enhanced Oil Recovery
  • Micro-Seismic Mapping
  • Complex Process Optimization
  • Data Center in a Box
  • Joint-Venture / M&A Planning
  • Operations Optimization
  • Predictive Pipeline Maintenance
  • Predictive Maintenance for Boarding Facilities
  • Asset Optimization
  • Cost Containment
  • Remote Analysis, Diagnostics, and Maintenance
  • Asset Health Monitoring and Benchmarking
  • Connected Vehicles
  • SAP Archiving and Document Management
  • Supply Chain Optimization
Midstream Operations
  • Lubricant Operations
  • Refinery Operations
  • Terminal Management
Downstream Operations
  • Product Distribution
  • Retail Fuel Operations
Marketing
  • Connected Sales / Marketing
  • Connected Brand
  • Connected Services

View more…

  • Social Listening
  • Loyalty Management
Innovation
  • Connected Process Innovation
  • Connected Product Innovation
  • Connected Retail Innovation
Profitability Management
  • Energy Trading
  • Product Price Optimization
  • Profit Optimization
Environment
  • Environmental Risk Management
  • Environmental Stakeholder Management
  • Environment Reporting
Health and Safety
  • Onsite Employee Health Screening
  • Real-Time Risk and Safety Monitoring (Kinect)
  • Health and Safety Risk Management
Security
  • Oil Field Threat Detection and Characterization
  • Advanced Security against Cybercrime
  • Enterprise Security

View more…

  • Predictive Pipeline Security
  • Insight on Geopolitical Trends
  • Real-Time Security Monitoring (Kinect)
Incident Management
  • Situational Awareness (following a disaster)
  • Predictive Analytics to Prevent Disasters
  • Stakeholder Communications and Collaboration

Example of a Two-Column Table of User Stories

Here is another example of a Two-Column Table of User Stories.   Note that in this case, it’s not the full format of “As a user, I want to X, so that I can Y”.

It’s an old list, but I think it illustrates the full power of Two-Column Tables.

I created it by interviewing CIOs and Enterprise Architects at the time, to learn how they would use the Cloud and where they got stuck, and where they needed the most help.

It made it really easy to find repetitive themes and to create a very large map of concerns.   When I was done, I shared it back out with participants and they really enjoyed the bird’s-eye view of this big new thing called the Cloud, at the time.

Here is a my example of a Two-Column table of user stories:

Categories for Cloud User Stories

  • Awareness / Education
  • Architecture
  • Availability
  • Competition
  • Cost
  • Governance and Regulation
  • Industry
  • Integration
  • Operations
  • People
  • Performance
  • Planning
  • Risk
  • Security
  • Service Levels / Quality of Service
  • Solutions
  • Sourcing
  • Strategy
  • Support

Map of Cloud User Stories for Business and IT Leaders

Category Items
Awareness / Education
  • As a Business Leader, I want to define the perspective on Cloud Computing and provide a holistic view of how various products, technologies and services help me
  • As an Architect I want to know how the cloud architecture supports my business goals and enterprise architecture
  • As an IT Leader I want details on training and educating my staff in the use and support for the service

View More…

  • As a Business Leader, I want to understand why I wouldn’t go to a proven partner that has a history of doing this for my competition, one that is already providing a similar service as part of our outsourcing agreement
  • As an Architect I want to understand how the cloud architecture reduces complexity
  • As an Architect, I want a way to see what my peers are doing, to learn and support each other
  • As an Architect, I want actionable guidance for prioritization of ground apps to cloud apps. How do I work out the balance for what should go into the cloud?
  • As an Architect, I want education on the content myself so that I am well versed in the specific items that apply to my customer
  • As an Architect, I want to know the good, bad, and ugly so that I am not misrepresenting this to the customer based on marketing material
  • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to understand why I would even consider moving to the cloud. What we have works, why change?
  • As an Architect, I want to understand the perceptions of customers and assumptions they will have that lead to preconceived ideas – and how do I ‘unlearn’ them to get to a better discussion
  • As an Architect, I want to understand the right sequence of steps to educate a customer on cloud
  • As an IT Leader, I want to know where the complexity is in the cloud. Every new paradigm claims to be simpler but still has to deal with the same operational baggage – where is the complexity in cloud solutions?
  • As an IT Leader, I want to know why I wouldn’t just go to a traditional outsourcer
  • As an IT Leader, I want to understand how I manage corporate data that may span multiple cloud scenarios
  • As an IT Leader, I want to understand why I would introduce yet another environment into my services and the associated complexity
Architecture
  • As an Architect, I want to see reference architecture for compelling cloud scenarios that will help me build a desired end-state for my specific customer scenario
  • As an Architect, I want to see case studies of both success and failure
  • As an Architect, I want to learn about proven Reference Architecture patterns for the cloud.

View More…

  • As an Architect, I want to understand Microsoft’s reference models for cloud concepts and terms.
  • As an Architect, I want data movement and management patterns and best practices
  • As an Architect, I want to identify Cloud System Integration Patterns (Cloud-To-Ground, VendorCloud-To-Ground, OurCloud-ToVendorCloud, VendorCloud-to-VendorCloud-to-Ground, etc)
Availability
  • As a Business Leader, I want to understand geographical redundancy
  • As an Architect, I want to know how to handle disaster recovery in the cloud
  • As an IT Leader, I want to understand the same details I would expect from my own data center (fault tolerance, back up procedures, disaster recovery etc.)

View More…

  • As a Business Leader, I want to know what happens when the next country decides to block Internet access
  • As an Architect, I want to learn how to evaluate cloud services for availability across all regions I need to cover. (What is the performance? What about support in a global environment?)
Competition
  • As a Business Leader, I want to know cloud offerings compare to the competition
  • As a Business Leader, I want to understand how cloud offerings can give me a leg up on my competition
  • As an Architect, I want a way to know what competitors are saying and how it should be addressed
Cost
  • As a Business Leader, I want to understand the cost structure for cloud solutions
  • As an Architect, I want a way to create a realistic cost model based on the current workload
  • As an IT Leader, I want to know if I need to migrate or rewrite my apps and what are the costs associated with this

View More…

  • As a Business Leader, how do I manage the transition period in which I probably have to pay twice?
  • As a Business Leader, I want a consistent cost of service so that I can manage against my budget
  • As a Business Leader, I want to know how to manage cloud service subscriptions across a large enterprise to optimize subscription costs
  • As a Business Leader, I want to know that I am not going to incur a large spike in my costs as part of the migration to the cloud
  • As a Business Leader, I want to know what geographic redundancy does to my bandwidth usage and costs
  • As an Architect, I want a way to assist with the customer presentations and planning discussions
  • As an Architect, I want a way to identify areas in IT where cost reductions can be had with relatively low risk
  • As an Architect, I want the costs to be known and predictable so that I can budget accordingly
  • As an Architect, I want to learn how to manage cloud service subscriptions across a large enterprise to optimize subscription costs
  • As an Architect, I want to understand how to build the cost model for the customer
  • As an Architect, I want understand the taxation impact on Cloud based Transactions (state, Federal, inter-nation)
  • As an IT Leader, I want a clear cost breakdown contrasted against my current costs or if I used my existing environment
  • As an IT Leader, I want to understand how I can implement chargeback within my IT environment to provide more transparency on costs
  • As an IT Leader, I want to understand the cost structure for the cloud solutions
Governance and Regulation
  • As a Business Leader, I want to know how to manage government regulations related to where certain info can be stored. (For large enterprise that have subsidiaries in several countries. A single cloud service may not be able to comply with each countries various regulation needs)
  • As an Architect, I want a way to address all regulations and restrictions that may be realized for my customers in all areas they do business
  • As an Architect, I want to ensure I am meeting regulatory requirements

View More…

  • As a Business Leader, I want to know how to adhere to the various government regulations related to pricing and information storage
  • As a Business Leader, I want to understand the environmental impact of moving to the cloud. How will this impact my green initiatives?
  • As an Architect, I want to learn how to adhere to the various government regulations related to pricing and information storage.
  • As an Architect, I want to learn how to manage government regulations related to where certain information can be stored.
  • As an Architect, I want to understand the jurisdiction issues with the cloud and how to mitigate them for my region(s)
Industry
  • As an Architect, I want to identify the relevant cloud industry trends for the business.
Integration
  • As a Business Leader, I want to understand how I integrate with my existing systems
  • As an Architect, I want to understand how to integrate cloud solutions with my existing processes
  • As an IT Leader, do I need to move all my integrated apps to the cloud or can I do this progressively? What does this mean when apps are integrated (data, web services…)?
Operations
  • As an IT Leader, I want to know how many environments do I need and what are the implications and costs (dev/test/pre-prod/prod)
  • As an IT Leader, I want to know how to integrate cloud reporting into my existing reporting infrastructure
  • As an IT Leader, I want to understand release management requirements to ensure they fit with our current procedures or do not create undue overhead

View More…

  • As an IT Leader, I want to know what the reporting capabilities of the service are. This provides visibility to the business on how the services are performing.
  • As an IT Leader, I want to understand a holistic view on management that spans all cloud scenarios
  • As an IT leader, I want to understand how I model the health of applications that may span private and public clouds or fully deployed in public cloud to ensure I can have better control on service levels.
  • As an IT Leader, I want to understand how I model the health of applications that may span private and public clouds or fully deployed in public cloud to ensure I can have better control on service levels
  • As an IT Leader, what is the flexibility of an organization to decide of when upgrades are appropriate based on their priorities and rhythms and how can I test my environment before upgrading the production environment?
People
  • As a Business Leader, I want to understand how my workforce must evolve to embrace the cloud
  • As a Business Leader, I want to understand how the cloud impacts my user base globally
  • As an Architect, I want to know what this means to IT teams (Do I need to get rid of people or repurpose the teams — which means here up leveling, training)

View More…

  • As a Business Leader, I want to understand how various cloud scenarios impact my workforce levels
  • As an Architect, I want guidance for measuring the impact of moving a system to the cloud (business and IT)
Performance
  • As a Business Leader, I want to understand how my service level management processes need to cater to online service redelivery
  • As an Architect, I want to know what are the availability, reliability, and scalability of the cloud (What do the SLAs mean? Do they still hold the same commitments?)
  • As an IT Leader, I want to know that I can make quick patches to address immediate quality of service issues

View More…

  • As an Architect, I want the cloud to provide elasticity for my business as it expands and contracts to address seasonal load
  • As an IT Leader, I want to know how to more effectively manage capacity requirements to avoid underutilized infrastructure and leverage online service more effectively
  • As an IT Leader, I want to understand the level of service I can expect for all of my user base
Planning
  • As a Business Leader, I want to understand how I test the solution before deployment
  • As a Customer, I want to know how to work out the balance for what should go into the cloud – I accept it’s not 0% and not 100% – but how do I find the right balance?
  • As an Architect, I want to develop some guiding architectural principles to help me build strategy and roadmap around Cloud Computing

View More…

  • As a Business Leader, I want to determine the effort needed to migrate our existing solution. Is this a lift and shift? Is this a rewrite, do we extend?
  • As an Architect, I want a way to determine the items in the cloud offerings that are relevant to my customer
  • As an Architect, I want my application portfolio management to inject cloud relevant criteria to decide what moves to the cloud and when (if it all)
  • As an Architect, I want to ensure we are not impacting the ability to realize change
  • As an Architect, I want to know how I can reduce my IT infrastructure burden by bursting capabilities into the cloud when I can’t outsource the whole service to the cloud
  • As an Architect, I want to know what maturity levels for what capabilities I need to ensure to better enable leveraging cloud scenarios
  • As an Architect, I want to understand how I can treat my physical infrastructure assets as more of a fabric and abstract the complexities of OEM devices
Risk
  • As a Business Leader, I want to know how I can retrieve my IP/Data should I decide to move provider (service lock-in)
  • As an Architect, I want to understand the areas of risk that I am accepting by trusting an external data center and service
  • As an IT Leader, I want to know the blockers that lead to implementation failure

View More…

  • As a Business Leader, how comfortable is a European company to host in a datacenter that is in the US?
  • As a Business Leader, I want to know what happens if the service is not reliable. What are my options? Can I easily find another solution and get out of the contract?
  • As a Business Leader, I want to understand the risks of depending on a single partner to run my business
  • As a Business Leader, I want to understand what is involved if we decide to return to our existing service
  • As an Architect, I want to be able to test with low risk opportunities if we decide to proceed
  • As an Architect, I want to know how to avoid vendor lock in
  • As an Architect, I want to understand how to identify low risk opportunities for the cloud
  • As an IT Leader, I want to know the blockers for adoption that cause decision paralysis
  • As an IT Leader, I want to know where the complexity is in cloud based solutions
Security
  • As an Architect I want to understand what new security risks exist in the cloud and what old risks have been mitigated
  • As an Architect, I want to know how I manage identity across cloud scenarios considering I’ve already invested heavily in my internal IT
  • As an Architect, I want to know how to manage privacy and integrity of the data if it’s hosted in the cloud. (How do I restrict access to the data by the hoster, and what do I do about a local copy of the data that is synchronized regularly?)

View More…

  • As an Architect, I want to know how to manage accessing cloud services from within the various heterogeneous internal networks
  • As an Architect, I want to understand a holistic view on security that spans all cloud scenarios
  • As an Architect, my company has invested in a common directory (AD/SSO). How does this work in the cloud?
Service Levels / Quality of Service
  • As a Business Leader I want to understand who is liable in the event of a service failure
  • As a Business Leader I want to understand who is liable in the event of a security breach
  • As an Architect, I want to understand what level of technical support is available to myself and my team

View More…

  • As an Business Leader, I want to know if I’ll have to change my SLA with customers
  • As an Architect, I want to know how the cloud infrastructure is supported
Solutions
  • As a Business Leader, I want to try before I buy and have access to a proof of concept
  • As an Architect, I want access to experts that can do analysis on creating solutions to determine the issues, risks, and costs for migration
  • As an IT Leader, I want to understand the balance for what should go in the cloud; I accept it’s not 0% and not 100%, how do I find the right balance

View More…

  • As an Architect, I want a way to assist with the proof of concept
  • As an Architect, I want to know how I can backup our Ground based HPC with the Cloud for on demand scale
  • As an IT Leader, I want my IT strategy to reflect Cloud computing, on-premises and off-premises capabilities
Sourcing
  • As an Architect, I want to know how to do partnership management in the cloud. (Managing a partner is hard and when this comes down to the fact that the service can be unavailable it is even more important to do a good job)
  • As an Architect, I want to know how to evaluate whether the application or system is considered core to my business and could be sourced to a partner in the cloud (Can the system or application be hosted outside of the intranet?)
  • As an Architect, I want to know how to use the Cloud for our DR plan. (i.e. fail from Ground to Cloud)
Strategy
  • As an Architect, I want to understand Microsoft’s strategy for cloud
Support
  • As a business leader, I want to know how we integrate with our existing help desk for escalation
  • As a Business Leader, I want to know if there is a reliable support structure (24×7)
  • As an IT Leader, I want to know what happens if something goes wrong; how fast will I be notified of an issue, how long will it take to be addressed, what priority will I be given contrasted against the other consumers of the service?

View More…

  • As a Business Leader, I want to know what the support implications are in a global environment
  • As an Architect, I want to know how to evaluate or enforce a 24×7 support model with the cloud
  • As an Architect, I want to know who I call if I am experiencing an issue with the hosted solution

A – Z is a Good Way to Sort

When lists get massive, the best way to sort them is A-Z.  It’s easier to find duplicates, and it’s faster to scan all the items.  You brain knows how to do this well.

In fact, the first table I left the mistake in, so you can compare.

In the second table, the categories are in alphabetical order so you can very quickly scan the full table and find the topic.

As you learn to name things better, the A-Z sort becomes more important.

A to Z is just an example, and I call it out because some people make no attempt to sort at all, and that little tiny change can make all the difference in the world.

I think you’ll find over time, you can always create a prioritized list from your base list – it’s fast to scan and recognize what’s more important than other things.

What’s hard to do is know when you have duplicates or where to look for something – if you know it’s alphabetical, then you know where to look.

The “View More” Pattern

I’ve never had a great name for this pattern, but I’ve just called it the “View More Pattern”.

Within a bucket or category, if the list of items is long, then I bubble up the most important to the top.

This helps easily see the most critical set, then quickly elaborate for more.

So really, if you think about it, the massive list, is just a collection of well-organized smaller lists, from simple to complete.

This ability to chunk up information into a simple set and a complete set is the key to hacking your way through complexity.

You can easily learn to handle increasing volumes of ideas, user stories, scenarios or whatever by using just enough mental scaffolding to guide your way.

The Big List Challenge

Now it’s your turn.

Here is a big list challenge for you.

Create your own massive list – your ultimate bucket list — of all the things in this world that you want to do do, want to experience, or want to achieve.

Create your ultimate list of the amazing things you want to do in this life.

Dr. Chris Stout is famous for his big list of goals.  Dr. Stout was inspired by John Goddard’s long list of adventures and lifetime achievements featured in 1972 issue of LIFE Magazine.

You can explore Dr. Stout’s big list of goals at The List of a Lifetime.

I can’t find the article now, but I remember Dr. Stout saying that rather than feeling overwhelmed by a big list, he feels inspired—it reminds him of all the possibility and future adventures he can’t wait to go make happen.

John Goddard’s Ultimate Bucket List

The world-adventurer John Goddard was featured in a 1972 issue of LIFE Magazine for his amazing list of adventures and achievements.

Here is a an example of his list, using the big list approach I showed above:

  • Accomplish
  • Climb
  • Explore
  • Explore Underwater
  • Photograph
  • Study Primitive Cultures In
  • Swim In
  • Visit
Category Items
Accomplish
  • Become an Eagle Scout (√)
  • Dive in a submarine (√)
  • Land on and take of from an aircraft carrier (√)
  • Fly in a blimp, balloon and glider (√)
  • Ride an elephant, camel, ostrich and bronco (√)
  • Skin dive to 40 feet and hold breath two and a half minutes underwater. (√)
  • Catch a ten-pound lobster
    and a ten-inch abalone (√)
  • Play flute and violin (√)
  • Type 50 words a minute (√)
  • Make a parachute jump (√)
  • Learn water and snow skiing (√)
  • Go on a church mission (√)
  • Follow the John Muir trail (√)
  • Study native medicines and bring back useful ones (√)
  • Bag camera trophies of
    elephant, lion, rhino,
    cheetah, buffalo and whale (√)
  • Learn to fence (√)
  • Learn jujitsu (√)
  • Teach a college course (√)
  • Watch a cremation ceremony in Bali (√)
  • Explore depths of the sea (√)
  • Appear in a Tarzan movie (he now considers this an irrelevant boyhood dream) (x)
  • Own a horse, chimpanzee, cheetah, ocelot, and coyote (yet to own a chimp or cheetah) (x)
  • Become a ham radio operator (x)
  • Build own telescope (√)
  • Write a book (On Nile trip) (√)
  • Publish an article in National
    Geographic Magazine (√)
  • High jump five feet (√)
  • Broad jump 15 feet (√)
  • Run mile in five minutes (√)
  • Weigh 175 pounds stripped (still does) (√)
  • Perform 200 sit-ups and 20 pull-ups (√)
  • Learn French, Spanish and Arabic (√)
  • Study dragon lizards on Komodo Island (Boat broke down within 20 miles of island) (x)
  • Visit birthplace of Grandfather Sorenson in Denmark (√)
  • Visit birthplace of Grandfather Goddard in England (√)
  • Ship aboard a freighter as a seaman (√)
  • Read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica (has read extensive parts in each volume) (x)
  • Read the Bible from cover to cover (√)
  • Read the works of Shakespeare, Plato, Aristotle, Dickens, Thoreau, Rousseau, Conrad, Hemingway, Twain, Burroughs, Talmage, Tolstoi, Longfellow, Keats, Poe, Bacon, Whittier, and Emerson (not every work of each) (√)
  • Become familiar with the compositions of Bach, Beethoven, Debussy, Ibert, Mendelssohn, Lalo, Liszt, Rimski-Korsakov, Respighi, Rachmaninoff, Paganini, Stravinsky, Toch, Tschaikosvsky, Verdi (√)
  • Become proficient in the use of a plane, motorcycle, tractor, surfboard, rifle, pistol, canoe, microscope, football, basketball, bow and arrow, lariat and boomerang (√)
  • Compose music (√)
  • Play Clair de Lune on the piano (√)
  • Watch fire-walking ceremony (In Bali and Surinam) (√)
  • Milk a poisonous snake (bitten by diamondback during photo session) (√)
  • Light a match with .22 rifle (√)
  • Visit a movie studio (√)
  • Climb Cheops’ pyramid (√)
  • Become a member of the
    Explorer’s Club and the
    Adventure’s Club (√)
  • Learn to play polo (√)
  • Travel through the Grand
    Canyon on foot and by boat (√)
  • Circumnavigate the globe (four times) (√)
  • Visit the moon (“Someday, if God wills”) (x)
  • Marry and have children
    (has five children) (√)
  • Live to see the 21st century (√)
Climb
  • Mt. Everest (x)
  • Mt. Aconcagua, Argentina (x)
  • Mt. McKinley (x)
  • Mt. Hauscaran, Peru (√)
  • Mt. Kilimanjaro (√)
  • Mt. Ararat, Turkey (√)
  • Mt. Kenya (√)
  • Mt. Cook, New Zealand (x)
  • Mt. Popocatepetl, Mexico (√)
  • The Matterhorn (√)
  • Mt. Rainier (√)
  • Mt. Fuji (√)
  • Mt. Vesuvius (√)
  • Mt. Bromo, Java (√)
  • Grand Tetons (√)
  • Mt. Baldy, California (√)
  • Careers in medicine and exploration (x)
  • Visit every country in the world (30 to go) (x)
  • Study Navaho and Hopi Indians (√)
  • Learn to fly a plane (√)
  • Ride horse in Rose Parade (√)
Explore Underwater
  • Coral reefs of Florida (√)
  • Great Barrier Reef, Australia
    (photographed a 300lb clam) (√)
  • Red Sea (√)
  • Fiji Islands (√)
  • The Bahamas (√)
  • Okefenokee Swamp and Everglades (√)
Photograph
  • Iguacu Falls, Brazil (√)
  • Victoria Falls, Rhodesia (Chased by a warthog in the process) (√)
  • Sutherland Falls, New Zealand (√)
  • Yosemite Falls (√)
  • Niagara Falls (√)
  • Retrace travels of Marco Polo and Alexander the Great (√)
Study Primitive Cultures In
  • The Congo (√)
  • New Guinea (√)
  • Brazil (√)
  • Borneo (x)
  • The Sudan (nearly buried alive in a sandstorm) (√)
  • Australia (√)
  • Kenya (√)
  • The Philippines (√)
  • Tanganyika
    (now Tanzania) (√)
  • Ethiopia (√)
  • Nigeria (√)
  • Alaska (√)
Swim In
  • Lake Victoria (√)
  • Lake Superior (√)
  • Lake Tanganyika (√)
  • Lake Titicaca, S. America (√)
  • Lake Nicaragua (√)
Visit
  • North and South Poles
  • Great Wall of China (√)
  • Panama and Suez Canals (√)
  • Easter Island (√)
  • The Galapagos Islands (√)
  • Vatican City (saw the Pope) (√)
  • The Taj Mahal (√)
  • The Eiffel Tower (√)
  • The Blue Grotto (√)
  • The Tower of London (√)
  • The Leaning Tower of Pisa (√)
  • The Sacred Well of
    Chichen-Itza, Mexico (√)
  • Climb Ayers Rock in Australia (√)
  • Follow River Jordan from Sea of Galilee to Dead Sea (x)

Note: I only alphabetized the categories of Goddard’s list. For bonus, I could have sorted the list items within each bucket into alphabetic for faster scanning. Additionally, I could have bubbled up the most interesting list items, and used the “View More” pattern, too, for an ultra-scannable list.

A Few More Notes About Big Lists

Big lists are the backbone of big dreams, bold ambitions, and epic adventures.

Don’t ever let a big list intimidate you.  If you can’t make sense of a big list, just chunk it down into themes that make sense for you, and sort it so you can scan it.

I’ve used big lists to handle hundreds of items and to make it easy to stay on top of what would otherwise appear to be chaos.

I remember one of my former manager’s telling me that he struggled with his stamp collection until he finally organized it into themes.   From the sounds of it, he had a big collection, but once he chunked it down into themes, it was easy to sort and sift through.

If you can master big lists, you open up a whole new world of possibilities.  Imagine lists of your favorite mental models, or lists of the best exercises for every kind of workout, or lists of movies you want to see, or lists of your best insights, or lists of your best ideas.

You could even make a big lists of all the lists you want to create Winking smile

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Great article. I have been using the two column approach for years using Excel and it works. I have three major lists for Career, Home and Community involvement.

    • Thank you. I really like how the approach works on paper or digital, and any device — it’s a simple way to slice and dice long lists down to size.

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