My Best List of the Year

If you’re just here for a picture of Keiko 🐶 , feel free to skip to the bottom and get your fix, or bare with me briefly while I share a process that has really helped me keep tabs on my many projects this year!

I am a list maker. I probably have about 10 lists going right now (😬) in multiple formats and platforms. If I’m in OmniFocus, it’s about organizing and automating tasks (from watering my plants to shipping 1’30” of music in 2 weeks). My daily Journal is for things like writing out what I ate the day before, coming up with some personal goals for the week, or scribing some affirmations. Bear houses lots of brainstorming lists and lists that are pretty darn important to me (pieces I intend to write and am fleshing out, concepts for my bands, shows and movies I want to watch), so I need them backed up. I also just love the look and feel of the software across all my devices. Finally, my Notebook, which is by my side at all times, is mostly used when the deliberate process of writing something out is necessary.

Let’s focus on the later today, and using my notebook for a recently implemented check-in that has made a big difference for me. Here are the basics:

First, I list every professional project on my plate in random order (as they pop into my head).

Next, I rank my list in order from “can’t live without” (top) through “this could/should go away asap” (bottom).

Then (and I do this LAST), I put the financial details next to each project so I can compare my instincts for the project against how much I am getting paid for it. Here’s a visual of completed steps 2 and 3 (and a peak at step 4):


  • What stands out to me? From my recent (actual) list, it was that the lowest paying gigs were the ones I was most passionate about and the highest paying, the least passionate. Also were the clear “neighborhoods” of inspiration, contentment, and blah (technical term).
  • What are the red flags? The feeling of being stuck with the less inspiring projects because they paid well, while looking at the top of the list and smiling.
  • What are the yellow flags? Taking stock of that middle area and wondering if there was a way to move them up or down the list with further reflection.
  • Then some further questions came to mind: 1. Can I invest more focus into my top 1-3 by making some adjustments to the middle and bottom of the list? 🙌🏻 and 2. Can I let go at least mentally (usually for me this is tied to “emotionally”) to the bottom 1-3 by doing things like setting further boundaries, automating tasks/interactions, or delegating unfulfilling work to another? 🤔

I went through this entire process about a month ago and ended up shedding two projects that were higher paying, lowest intrinsic reward creatively, and were (in retrospect) negatively affecting my health. I tried initially to refocus 1 of the 2, but that didn’t work, so I said goodbye instead.

The affect that the absence of these 2 projects had on my well-being was palpable: my RHR was now lower, I was smiling more, the muse was sending me ideas at a rate I hadn’t felt in a long time, and I was doing things away from my work with much more presence and appreciation.

For the record, I took both of those projects on with the greatest of intentions. At the time they seemed to be healthy for everyone involved, but stuff changes (the gig, the people, yourself, the world) and without making this list, I don’t know if I would have seen the data that I clearly needed to. Due to their absence, other projects from the list vastly improved and space was created for new opportunities that met my (revised) criteria for potential projects. I think I will speak to that exciting on-boarding process next week actually 🤓.

In conclusion, this list clearly helped me a lot and I plan to do it quarterly with whatever projects are current or upcoming (if seasonal). With that said, what about you? How can you incorporate such a list into your life? Assuming you aren’t a freelancer like myself, is it something like evaluating your personal relationships (minus the money part hopefully 😂) and determining who you’d like to spend more or less time with? Perhaps its looking at your housework and trying to automate or hire-out the chores you dislike the most (I hear kids like money, but hate emptying the dishwasher)? Let me know your thoughts or ideas in the comments below and thanks for reading!

And at last—what you’ve all been waiting for—Keiko’s first (EVER) snow beard:

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