Creating Your Total Life List for 2012

Thanks to author, Bruce Rosenstein, for this thoughtful and practical guest post on how to start your year off right by simply making a list. Read on…

As we begin 2012, many of us will be looking for new ways to organize and improve our life. One reason that taking advantage of a new beginning can be so difficult is that most of us have more than one dimension to our life. This is especially true for knowledge workers with work, friends, family and possibly obligations such as volunteering for a nonprofit or religious organization, or for a professional association such as SLA or ALA.

How do you know what aspects you’d like to improve if you’re not really sure how many activities and people actually comprise your life? My suggestion is to create and use a Total Life List. I created this device as a running theme in my book Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life. It’s designed for people who lead busy lives, and who want to make sure they are getting the most out of their time, and making a positive difference in the world.

The list is simple to set up and use. It can be done on computer, or with pen and paper. The idea is to have a framework for a visual representation of where your life stands now, including identifying the people in your various activities and responsibilities; and what you envision for the future.

The sections of your Total Life List:

  1. Immediate family
  2. Extended family
  3. Work colleagues you interact with most frequently and closely
  4. Friends
  5. Members of your professional networks
  6. Where you work now and a brief statement of your responsibilities
  7. Memberships in professional associations
  8. Various learning activities; formal and informal
  9. Teaching activities; formal and informal
  10. Volunteering
  11. Involvement with nonprofits or social entrepreneurship
  12. Mentoring
  13. All outside activity (e.g. sports, religion/spirituality, book groups, writing, music and other artistic endeavors, amateur interest societies, hobbies, etc.)
  14. Mind-body and exercise

Give an honest accounting of where you are now in these areas, and what you’d like to aim for in the future, including the people you’d like to add to your life. If you are on Facebook and LinkedIn, or other social networks, some of this information will be ready-made. Your list can be as all-encompassing and elaborate as you’d like it to be. No matter how you approach it at first, think of it as an ongoing activity for the rest of 2012 and beyond.

As the year progresses, you’ll have a snapshot of life that you can use as a basis for starting worthwhile changes at any time. You can keep it private, or show it to others, or compare it with the lists of your friends and colleagues. I believe that the self-examination and focused thought that goes into drawing up your list will be among the most valuable things you do this year.

Bruce Rosenstein is the author of Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life (Berrett-Koehler, 2009).

He is Managing Editor of Leader to Leader, the quarterly journal of the Leader to Leader Institute (formerly the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management).

He worked for USA TODAY for 21 years, until late 2008. He was the embedded librarian in the News section — the first embedded librarian at the newspaper — and for the final 12 years, also wrote about business and management books for the Money section.

Besides USA TODAY, he has written for such publications as Leader to Leader, Leadership Excellence, GAMA International Journal, American Executive, Information Outlook, Library Journal and ONLINE.

Since 1996, he has also taught as a lecturer at The Catholic University of America’s School of Library and Information Science in Washington, D.C.

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