I’m a chronic list maker. No, seriously, I think it borders on compulsion. I have list making apps, lists in my calendar, lists on my desktop, lists in my Google Docs, lists in Evernote, my ever-present sketchbook full of lists, and, most days, a folded up piece of paper in my back pocket for those quick-scribble list additions.
Don’t worry—if you’re not a list maker I’m not going to try to convert you. But, I have found lists to be immensely useful for brainstorming ideas, keeping to-dos on track, scheduling my days and weeks, making big picture plans, and making action plans for big projects.
Here are 26 list ideas to help you take over your workflow and rock the freelance life. If you don’t yet have a go-to list making tool, check out Wunderlist, Todoist, Evernote, Remember the Milk, or just use good old fashioned paper.
1. Daily To-do Lists – Schedule your daily to-dos to stay focused and on-track
2. Weekly To-dos – Having a weekly to-do schedule allows you to balance your workflow over several days and avoid last minute deadline crams.
3. Monthly To-dos – When you lay out your monthly to-dos, make sure to give yourself time off so you can come back to work rested and ready to hustle.
4. 1 Year, 3 Year, 5 Year Plans – This one is tricky because things change. That’s OK. List items from your big picture vision of your life and business to stay focused and start manifesting your best life. When the vision changes, change your lists.
5. Article Pitches – If you’re like me, great article ideas hit when you’re hiking, or at the farmers market, or in downward dog. Write those ideas down as soon as possible. You think you’ll remember them, but before you know it you’ll be scratching your head thinking, now what was that again?
6. Blog Post Ideas – If you blog, you know you need an endless stream of ideas for posts. If you wait until it’s time to write to start thinking of post ideas, you’ll stare at that white screen for hours. Keep a running list going and when it’s time, just choose one and start writing.
7. People You’d Like to Connect With – Connecting with other freelancers and new economy movers-and-shakers is one of the great joys of freelancing. Between interviews, conferences, coworking spaces, social media, and community events, there are countless people who I’d love to say hello to and maybe even sit down for coffee with. Keep a list going and reach out the them when the time feels right. You might be surprised at how willing and excited people are to connect.
8. Publications You’d Like to Write For – Yes, getting a byline in Yoga Journal, or O, or Vanity Fair would be great. But there are a lot of other publications out there that need your work. When you see regional mags, or trade mags, or under-the-radar publications, add them to your list. You can check out their contributor guidelines and start brainstorming pitch ideas.
9. Coworking Spaces to Visit – If you’re a regular reader of The Freelance Cat, you know that I’m a big fan of coworking. When I travel, I make a point of checking out the local coworking spaces and, ideally, spend time working in them. It’s a great way to be productive on the road and extend your freelance community.
10. Places You’d Like to Visit – One of the great joys of freelancing is that we have the freedom to work from wherever we are. If I have a place to set my laptop and good wi-fi, I’m generally good to go. Where would you like to work from? My current list includes: Boston, Copenhagen, Telluride, the Netherlands, Nashville, NYC, and Missoula.
11. Improvements to Your Web Presence – How’s your website looking? Does it need an update? Rather than overwhelming yourself with thoughts of a total overhaul, make a list of all the improvements you can make. Then, when you have a few idle minutes, knock a few to-dos off the list.
12. Improvements to Your Social Media Presence – Need a new profile photo? What about an update to your Twitter profile now that you’re working with that great publication? Been meaning to see what all the fuss about Periscope is about? Keep a list of social media to-dos to keep your profiles fresh and up-to-date.
13. Guest Blog Post Ideas – This is a little different than article or blog post ideas. The idea with guest blog posts is to establish yourself as an expert and drive traffic back to your site. Find out what influential bloggers are looking for from guest posters and keep a list of ideas as they come to mind.
14. Guest Blog Post Publications – The flipside of #13 is to keep a list of blogs you’d like to guest post for. Things to look for in blogs: an engaged audience, good traffic, that it’s run by an industry influencer, that it’s good fit for your writing style, and that it’s aligned with your business but not directly competing with it.
15. Influencers to Connect With – Having influencers share your post or invite you to guest blog for them is really valuable. REALLY valuable. You can scratch and claw your way to a couple dozen pageviews, or you can have influencers share your content and watch pageviews pour in by the hundreds, or even thousands. When you read a great article, or get some valuable content through your Twitter stream, make a note of who wrote it, follow them, and engage with them. By building a relationship with influencers, you increase the chance of them sharing your content.
16. Goals for Your Business – Where are you headed with your freelance business? What would you like it to look like? What goals would you like to reach? $1000 per month? $6000 per month? 1 new client per week? 10 new clients per week? Write these goals down and look at them regularly to make sure your actions are moving you in the direction of your goals.
17. Tools to Get – This, for me, is a combination of a must-get and a wishlist. My own Tools to Get list currently includes a podcast microphone, better headphones, and a new voice recorder. What tools do you need to step up your freelance game?
18. Books to Read – You know all those great books about business / marketing / writing / productivity that you see reviewed or hear someone mention? Write them down. As soon as you hear them. Otherwise, you’ll never remember all the potential to-reads you have piling up in your brain.
19. Weekly Workouts or Outdoor Time – Yep, I have lists of when I’m going to do yoga or go for walks. As every week is a bit different, I use them to make sure I’m hitting all my fitness goals. This list overlaps a bit with my weekly to-dos, but I like to give it its own list. For instance, my goals for this week: 10-15 miles walked, 2 yoga classes, and 2 home yoga sessions. Oh yeah, and more juggling. I’ve slipped off a bit and want to get back into it.
20. Photos You Need – Every site you have a profile on probably wants a photo of you. Not to mention your “About” page on your website, and your author pic for your soon-to-be-bestseller. Right? Yes, you can shuttle the same one around to all the different sites, or you can get a list going of good ones to get, and start making it happen. (This is advice I’m giving to myself. I’ve been needing some new pics for a while so I’m writing it here to hold myself accountable. ;))
21. Events You’d Like to Attend – There are so many helpful events, Meetups, conferences, and gatherings. I’ve started a list of these, along with when and where they’re happening, to make sure I schedule trips, assignments, and to-dos around them.
22. Book Ideas – Is there a book author lurking inside you waiting to get out? Yeah? Me too. I have a steady stream of book ideas—some of them good, some of them not-so-much—that I keep track of. To be honest here, my Book Ideas list is spread out across Google Docs, Evernote, and Wunderlist and really needs to be consolidated.
23. Blogs and Podcasts to Check Out – Do you know how many super-smart, super-helpful people there are in the world who can take you from a business / marketing / productivity / writing newbie to a pro? Or at least make you a lot better? Great blogs and podcasts abound. When you hear someone mention a good one, put it on the list and check it out when you have time.
24. Areas of Your Business that Need Attention – You’re a fantastic writer, but you suck at invoicing. Or, you’re a social media whiz but you have no idea how to pitch an article. Make a list of your weak spots and areas of your business that need attention, then make a commitment to start taking steps to work on them and get your freelance business in better balance.
25. Apps to Try – I always ask people what apps they use and love. When they mention one I think I might like, I jot them down. Then when I have a few minutes and some App Store credit I give them a try.
26. Things You’re Grateful For – This one is essential. You can’t move forward if you don’t appreciate where you are, and all that you have. Make a daily practice of feeling and expressing gratitude.
There you have it. Plenty of list ideas to turn you into a list making machine. What lists do you already use? What have I missed here? In the comments, let me know.
Photo by Chris Lott (CC-BY)