February 1, 2023

What’s Working: Using Lists To Create An Intentional Day


Episode Highlights

Robyn Carney and the Magic of Making Lists


Embracing the Ebbs & Flows of Productivity


Letting Yourself Experiment and Be Flexible With Your Productivity Flow


New Lists to Create


How to Start Making Lists & Prioritize What You Need to Get Done


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In our first episode of What’s Working, Nicole talks with Robyn Carney, DEI Lead at Hirewell, about lists and how they can be used as an extension of your brain! Everyone has created a list in their life, but Robyn has found a way to be intentional about the lists she creates and how she reviews them so she can stay productive without sacrificing her creativity. Join us to learn how lists are working for Robyn!

Episode Transcript

Hi guys. My name’s Nicole Magats, and welcome to What’s Working. A show that celebrates the things in our lives that remain constant. Oftentimes in life, there’s the newest thing, the shiny new thing that’s coming out that’s meant to be innovative and to change our lives in the world as we know it. But I think more often than not, there are things that remain constant and oftentimes in today’s society, you see that there are new things coming out, the latest and greatest pushing us to try these new things.

But often there are these like old tried and true methods that are just the best. And I think it’s important that we celebrate those things and check in with other people to see what are those things for them. And it could be a tool, a habit, a platform, a book. Maybe a really unique habit or ritual that they have.

We really just want to create this space to celebrate that. And so today we have Robyn Carney on for our inaugural episode. Robyn, do you want to introduce yourself? Hi, yes. I’m Robyn Carney. I’m the DEI and Sourcing Ops Lead here at Hirewell. And I’m super excited to be on this episode with Nicole, hanging out with my good friend.

Yay. Oh, I’m so excited to have you. So as I said, this is the first episode. I’m so honored to have Robyn on because as Robyn said, we’re friends, we work together. Robyn does a lot behind the scenes at Hirewell to like effectively be the glue that holds us all together. So I’m really excited to kind of hear what your “thing” is, right.

What’s working for you, because there’s a lot of stuff that you got to keep together to keep us Hirewellians going, right? Yeah. When you first asked me to be on the show, I was like what do I do? Like, because I kind of just roll through my processes. And I’m just like what is keeping me going?

And I jokingly told you post-it notes initially, and then I was like, oh. But no really post-it notes. Like, I was trying to think. I was like I always say this too shall pass or whatever. But no, it’s Post-it notes. Specifically lists. And how I use lists. But really it’s just post-it notes.

Well tell me more. What do you like to memorialize in lists/post-it notes? Everything. So I have ADHD, which a lot of us do. But it does mean that sometimes I do have the memory of a goldfish. And something that I realized at some point is, it’s not so much the fact that I’ve written it down and that I can refer to it later.

It’s just, there’s something about the process of writing something down. Physically writing something down means I’m more likely to remember to do it. So, I am a huge fan of like the highly specialized post-it notes that you can buy at Target or you can get at stationary stores, like the ones that have dumb sayings on the top. Like I have my weekly to-do list that I write here. This is a fresh page of it, because I didn’t want to flash my to-do list for this week, so you could see how much was not checked off yet. Do you want to out yourself ? I’m just like, “Hey listen, we know what day of the week it is and we know what I’m up to.” I’m doing a lot, but I’m also-

You’re more than halfway through Robyn. Yeah, I’m just like, a lot of stuff gets done Friday afternoons in my world because it’s like, Oh my God. I cannot flip to the next week until I do all this stuff that the can gets kicked for conversations or whatever.

So I was trying to think about when I started writing more lists. I joke about the Post-it notes, but it’s really I used to be obsessed with my planner.

In the high school I went to, we got these planners with the school logo on the front and I wrote everything down in it. And I used to be obsessed with it. I’d write everything. And I was like, I didn’t do that in middle school. Like in middle school, I could barely pay attention.

And like I remember my freshman year, there was this turning point when I realized that handing in homework gives me like a huge dopamine hit. Like knowing the right answers makes me happy. And then ever since then, I’m always on top of my homework. I was always making sure I wrote down everything I needed to do in a planner.

And as you grow older, life gets a little more complicated, right? When I was in ninth grade, I wasn’t in meal planning for myself, right? I didn’t have to sit down and think like, okay, what’s a well-balanced meal for next week? So now I have the little specialized chart that I can like, fill in and figure out what I want for the next week and tear it off and go shopping and that kind of stuff. And I just feel like whenever I write a list for something, even if I don’t actually remember to bring the list or remember to look at the list, I, I feel like I remember it better just through the action of having written it down.

And like having organized my thoughts in such a way that it’s cohesive. Like the weeks where I don’t write out a list of what I want to eat for the following weeks are the weeks that I just live off mac and cheese and PB and J sandwiches. Which they’re great, but as stated, I am no longer in ninth grade, so I think living off just PB and J sandwiches is no longer healthy.

Probably wasn’t then either. Yeah, I guess my constitution was different when I was like, what? 13, 14? How old are you in ninth grade, I guess. I don’t know. 14. So with that, like I think you brought up an interesting point of there being some weeks that you maybe aren’t able to plan and there is a piece of in intentionality, right?

Like sitting down, like having to carve out the time to actually do this and engage in this. Like how do you like go about doing that? So I think it took me a very long time to realize that I have to be intentional about certain aspects of like planning my life essentially. Like for example, the meal kit thing, I’ve eaten way more PB and J sandwiches before I got to the point where I realized it probably would’ve been a better idea to sit down and write something in a grocery list. But when it comes to the intentionality of it-

It’s kind of like a snowball effect, right? So I don’t remember having started, I remember like adding in things to my planner that is not just about work, right? Or originally it was about school, but the further along you get in school, the more that life gets tied up into school, right? You got to do your taxes. If you have a car you have to deal with like license and registration. So like, putting all that stuff in my planner. Like the life admin stuff. Yeah, just all the little tiny things that you have to do in your adulthood that like truly build up over time.

You don’t or at least I didn’t have a car when I had to pay taxes the first time. So having to build all that up and now I’m at the point where I write, this is a bit much, but I have one of those post-it notes that say like, easy stuff and hard stuff. And the word stuff is not used and I write out what I need to do for the quarter on there, like the “life” quarter.

So things like, okay, it’s December so I have to get my emissions checked and get my tags for the upcoming year.

But yeah, so like I had to get tags and do the emission test for my car and if nobody reminds you to do it, nobody’s going to tell somebody in their thirties like, “oh, you have to get your emissions checked on your car.” You have to just remember to do that. So like, putting everything down on a to-do list for the quarter, not only does it make it easier for me to remember, but it also makes me want to just get it all over with.

Like the last week I did an insane amount of stuff because I had just written a to-do list of all the stuff I had to get done in December, and it wasn’t even December yet. I just did it all at the end of November,

And it was just like, Nicole, I can’t stop just doing things. Chucking through it. Yeah, but that kind of goes back to your question of I do have these ups and flows, where like one week I’ll be really good and I’ll do everything on the list and I’ll get everything done. And I have a weekly cleaning list of like, “Oh, I got to take out the garbage, I got to mop, I got to blah, blah, blah.”

But then there are weeks where I don’t write anything down. I don’t write a to-do list for myself. I don’t necessarily have the “spoons” for it. Or I just can’t like really maintain that level of taking care of what needs to be taken care of. And that’s just something that kind of happens sometimes where you’re just like, you’re super busy with work so you don’t have the time or the ability to sit down and be like, “Okay, I do need to mop today. I do need to do my dishes.” And sometimes when those periods go on for a long time, it can be hard to get back into the groove of it. Like I talked a lot about how important planners were to me in high school and college and grad school. And when I was teaching, I like lived by my planner. Like I carried that thing everywhere with me and I had grades sheets in the back.

And I had some that were allotted for my students and some that were allotted for me. And I would check things off for myself as I needed to, and I wanted to keep all that lined up and good. And I was like, I love this planner. They really do not make enough planners, like teacher planners, they’re so hard to get if you’re not a teacher. I think all of the ones I got were provided to me by the schools I worked at. Oh interesting. I mean, I’m sure they exist and I’m just like the world’s laziest person, but like, if you know a place to buy teacher planners, please put them in the comments.

Put in the comments. But I haven’t really used a planner at all since March, 2020 for some reason. Like there was a long period of time where I just didn’t leave my house, so I didn’t really have plans with people and I didn’t really do anything outside of my house.

So everything was, like I have this five days a week. And sometimes I’d be like, call mom or whatever on there, instead of adding in specific things that I had to go do. It’s interesting, like it’s one of those things where I’ve evolved past it. But at the same time, like I used to keep track of the books I read in there and now I have to keep track of the books I read on like a bookmark. I just realized this was here. I did not plant this. Somebody asked me, like for a book recommendation and I was like, let me look at the books I’ve read so far, this year, which I think this started in the spring, so yeah.

That’s so cute. Isn’t it? How do you organize all of your lists? Like, it seems like they’re kind of like disparate in different books and things. How do you, keep track of all of your different tools? That’s a great question. It’s interesting. I also keep everything afterwards. I have all of my five days a week since I started at Hirewell, for example. So that way if somebody says like, “Hey Robyn, do you remember what you were doing in like November, 2021?” Whatever that was like a year ago, I can be like, yeah, let me look this up.

But I have like certain things that are for work. I have certain things that are for life and then I have certain things that are for like different aspects of life and I kind of just keep them all in the same place on my desk actually. There’s like a spot on my desk where all my post-it notes live when I’m not using them. And I have, like I said, variations. So I have the shopping list one, I have the meal prep one, which is actually separate from the shopping list one. I have the five important things you need to do today. The three important things you need to do, less important things. And then two things that you’re probably not going to get to kind of lists.

And then I have the easy stuff, hard stuff. Those two lists are interchangeable depending on like what tasks I’m going through. So like if I have a week where I have to do a lot of cleaning, usually I use the 5,3,2 for cleaning. But sometimes I’m like, there’s so much I’m doing something seasonal.

I have to use one of the big lists. But they all exist in the same place on my desk and they all sit on my desk. So like if I’m not working, I like close my laptop and then I actually put like my work notebook, which also has lists in it on top of my laptop and my five days a week on top of the laptop.

So it’s like the first thing I look at. Because like sometimes I’ll be walking around doing something and then I’ll be like, oh, I have that thing I need to do tomorrow. And I add it to the list so it’s right on top of the laptop so I know exactly where it is. I also use Asana for work, which I don’t access after work hours. So work stuff stays together and then life stuff stays together.

And then the shopping list and the like, “what I’m going to eat,” They both like live in the kitchen because that’s where they make the most sense. Yeah. But I do take them to my desk to write into them. Which I didn’t realize I do that just because I’m like, this is where I plan and plot. I also like make progression charts for myself all the time.

I wrote out a list of all the books I hadn’t read in my apartment and I’m coloring them in inch by inch, as I finish them. Because I read a lot. Doing the same thing for paying off my student debt. Saving up. I have like a little chart that I color in because I’m five.

It works really well. I love it. I mean I don’t know. I think if it’s motivating and it gets the job done, who cares? I mean there’s so many people who are like, why don’t you just bullet journal? And I’m like, I feel like if I tried to reign it all into one place, it would stifle my creativity a little bit because I do kind of just go all over the place.

But also bullet journaling is so cool, you know? It’s kind of interesting because I was sitting here thinking like, I feel like you’d love it for that creativity. But I think there is kind of a fun, or like whimsicalness, I think to being able to like have, not even like a separation, but just have it be disparate and like kind of fun in the randomness in that respect.

The five days a week thing is technically a mouse pad. So back when I had a mouse I would like use it as a mousepad all the time and like it helps because it’s like right there and I could look at it, but also I could move things to the next week or at the end of the day check in and draw arrows to like the next day if there was something that I didn’t get done.

I think one of the things that I really like about my process is I get so bored so quickly. And this way I can like constantly be evolving what I’m doing. Like if I run out of a specific type of post-it note again, always just be like, actually I don’t really care for that.

Or, one of the things I’ve noticed, like I love this bookmark and it does have, I’m like flashing it and I’m hoping nobody can read my handwriting. because I’ve read some embarrassing books this year. Which I am always happy to talk about the books I read, but there are some that were terrible this year.

But if I was like, I would like to be able to write down my thoughts because I look at this list and I’m like, what was that book again? Or like, who wrote that? Or what was that book about? Then I can switch to a different method of like keeping track of those particular notes.

You’ll get there and I think it’ll evolve too eventually to like encompass those things as you wanted to. Yeah, that’s one of the things that I like is like that I can just kind of make it be whatever I want. So like, if I change it, I don’t think, oh, everything I’ve ever done is stupid.

I think that was what I needed to get to where I’m going, which is kind of how I try to feel about everything in my life. Those are the building blocks that I now stand upon, and they’re entirely made of post-it notes. That is a very solid and certain foundation. But I think that’s interesting because there are-

it’s like slipping and sliding there’s stuff stuck to me. No, I’m saying that tongue in cheek of course. But, there are people that I know that really struggle with bullet journaling or even just these kinds of things because there is such a like, or it feels like, there is such a perfectionistic quality where it’s like I have to do it right, and I have to have my process set out and I need to know like what sections and it needs to look really pretty. And if it isn’t, then I like, I can’t start. So I think it’s cool that you’ve been able to build in like that levity for yourself, like inherently into the process and just like approach it to experiment than anything else.

Yeah. And I didn’t even realize I was doing it until you asked me. Then I was like, wow, I’m really into doing this. I do it all the time. I’m profound. Yeah. I’m like, oh my God. I have like a special note thing that I use on very special, busy days that like breaks down my day, hour by hour. So sometimes I use that on days where I like have to be in one place from the next.

One of the unfortunate things about having ADHD, like one of my biggest struggles is that like I have the time blindness issue sometimes and like I’m pretty good about being on time during the workday because you know, I go from one meeting to the next, to the next, to the next. Yeah. But like in my personal life, it is a struggle for me to like remember to leave at specific times in order to get, because I’m like, well, it only takes 10 minutes to get there.

Like, no, it doesn’t. It just doesn’t, it takes half an hour if you’re lucky. So having that kind of like hour based list helps. It isn’t military time though, and I don’t understand military time, which everybody all over the world who’s watching this video is just like, that’s just time.

You’re so American. Please in the comments, shame Robyn for not knowing military time. For being really bad at military time. To the point where I have to write it in by myself. I’m like, I could figure it out you just subtract 12 as soon as things get higher than 12. But I’m so bad at math. Get a little messy

It’s a little awkward. Time difference throws me off every time. I’m just like what is time? Time makes no sense. It is my biggest bone to pick with myself. I’m just like constantly trying to figure out what time is. You know this about me, Nicole. Time. I was like 20 minutes late the first time we hung out outside of work. And I was like, oh, I’m sorry. This is just who I am as a person. They wouldn’t like let me sit either. So I had to just be like, okay, I’m just going to eat by myself. I just had to order by myself. So bad.

Okay. I got brunch with Rothna and she told me, I told her 10, and she showed up 15 minutes late knowing that I’m always late and I still made her wait for eight minutes and I’m like, I’m so sorry. I’m working on it. She’s like, this restaurant is literally next door to your house. And I was like, I couldn’t find my glasses.

It’s my biggest struggle. I’m going to fix it in 2023. That’s my goal for the year next year. All right. Back to the subject at hand. Are there any like shortcomings of like your list making situation? Like, are there things that you feel like you’re not able to encompass or like something that’s like missing? Like, a hole that you’re looking to plug.

So there’s a couple, I would say. The first and foremost is sometimes when I’m rushing, my handwriting is so bad. It’s just like, it’s so bad. And I’m just like, what did I write here? I have no idea. Like, absolutely none. But I would say sometimes, like I do wish that I could just like magically, like the writing part is really important to me.

So I do have Asana that I use for work, for shared tasks and goals. And like, just because having the reminders set up. So sometimes I’ll write something down and I’ll put it into Asana, which I love. But like, it’s like the writing things down is the important part, but sometimes I wish it was just like all on my phone.

Do you know what I mean? Like just so that I could access it in one place. Somebody we work with, Zach, has a like magical pen. It’s not magic, it’s technology, but it does the same thing where like you write and it like creates a word document out of it. Ooh. Yeah. Yeah. And I know he has it. I don’t know if he’s ever used it.

So sometimes I’m like, would that fix all my problems? But then I would get so fiddly about formatting and fixing things that I’m just like, eh. And if I type something up on my phone as part of a to-do list, I’m not going to remember. It doesn’t work. It’s not magic. Yeah. Unless I set a reminder that will like, like a timer or a reminder that like beeps at me, it’s not going to work.

Like I always have a notebook in whatever purse carrying. Or I always have like pen and paper floating around in my bag. But sometimes it can be hard. Also the other thing since I like reflected on this a little bit today, I went shopping today and it is winter for those of you who are watching this video and are not sure why there’s a giant tree behind me.

But it is winter and I got into the store and I had written a shopping list because I’m like going shopping, but I’m not staying at my own house. Hence there is a tree when I’m very vocally Jewish, but I was like okay, these are the things I need to get. Could not find the piece of paper. I had like a big coat on.

I’m checking all the pockets in the coat. I checked my hoodie pockets, I checked my jean pockets. Could not find this piece of paper. I was like, it must have fallen off, fallen out somewhere. I hope I get everything I need to make these cookies, right? So I like run to the store. I’m like getting everything I need for these cookies.

I leave the store, I get home. It was in my back pocket the whole time. But that happens a lot more frequently than I wish it did. And especially when there’s more layers. Ugh. Like which layer. Yeah. It’s just like, where is it? And like I said, most of the time just writing helps me remember.

But sometimes it’s like, oh, did I need to buy walnuts or I don’t know. Anyways, that’s where I’m at in the world. I love it. Is there like any random list that you have that someone wouldn’t expect you to have? Or what’s like the most random list that you have? So sometimes I like write down things I need to like watch later because people make a lot of references to something and I’m like, I need to watch this. You’re like FOMO-ing from like all the references you’re not understanding. Yeah, yeah. I used to think I was a big movie person. But the older I get I’m like, no, I’m not a movie person. Like, I like a traditional movie. But if I’m by myself, I’m playing video games or I’m reading a book.

Right? Like those are my like main two picks or TV shows I guess. But like that’s not really like groundbreaking. The cleaning list won’t surprise anybody because I am me. I think that’s really smart though. Like I think a lot of people don’t really know what to clean and at what frequency. So to have a list built out to say like, okay, I need to clean this every however many weeks.

You know, just like keep up on that. I think that’s brilliant. I created a list of like each seasonal chore. So I Googled what seasonal chores exist. Like cleaning your blinds, like that kind of thing. Like how frequently you should wash your curtains, how frequently you should wash, like your comforter if you use a duvet cover and blah, blah blah or whatever.

And I put them into a 12 month list. And on the back I have weekly and monthly chores. So like for example, in my house, I sweep, Swiffer, and take out the garbage and take out the recycling once a week. What was really hard about that particular exercise is that I don’t have children.

I don’t have children. All the lists were geared towards like people who have. A spouse and children to clean up after. Yeah. And they were like, you have to do laundry every day. And I’m like, that’s insane. I would not do laundry every day.

I do not go through that many clothes. So it’s like really hard to find like a list of like weekly and like daily and monthly chores. Like, so my daily chores, the sink has to be empty and the counters have to be wiped down. I think of it as like, because I worked in the restaurant business for so long, I think of it as like “closing.”

Like everything has to be put away. Yeah. Like in respective places. Nothing should be on the ground. All the blankets in the living room should be on the couch because I live like a mole person in the winter. Like everything should be closed for the evening.

That’s like my daily chore. But then I have like weekly, which is like those bigger chores, and then monthly, which is like deep mop. There’s like a few other things that I do monthly. I don’t have the list in front of me, so I don’t remember. But then figuring out what the big seasonal thing that I would have to do like every month for a year. So like, for example, wipe the baseboards behind furniture. So like moving all the furniture to wipe the baseboards and stuff like that. Because like I really hate when you move and you realize that there’s like so much fur like collected behind like everything.

And I’m just like, I hate that. Oh, so much. I think that how in depth I went into creating that particular list is probably the most shocking thing about me. I love that. You’re supposed to wash your curtains every year. Did you know that? I assumed. I lived with Venetian blinds for like so long that like, you wipe them down when they’re dusty. That when I got curtains I was like, okay, how do you take care of these? And like are supposed to wash them once a year. You can’t just like dust them in the same way that you do with Venetian ones.

Just, yeah, shake it out and it’s just done. Yeah. It’s better than having like the college thing of like an old sheet thrown over a metal rod and like pinned together. Just constantly growing and growing, and learning and learning, and growing about cleaning. It’s an evolution. I’m like how much does a normal person do this?

Because I, a person who cleans a little bit too much, like, how frequently should I be doing this is an important question. Love it. You should not be moving your furniture to clean the baseboards every day. This is what I Googled.

If someone were to want to start like list creating or trying to get organized a little bit more using this method? Like where should they start? I think they should start, like I say, everything starts small, right? But like, kind of start with where you’re the most curious and motivated to be at.

Meal prep and planning, I think is like a big one that everybody struggles with. It’s like, what am I supposed to eat again tonight? So if that’s it, then I would say start with like the meal prep planning lists or start with leaning a little bit into your planners a little bit.

I always like a prioritization list because sometimes priorities can be hard to identify. So that could be a good place to start. Say more about that, like a priorities list or prioritization list. Everybody’s got tasks they have to do throughout the day and this particular list I will always combine work with like personal life. So that way I don’t completely forget to do one or the other. But, there’s like variations on this. So you can do like the one thing that must get done today, and then it’s just like it’ll break down like one, four, and then three or whatever. So it’s like the one important thing you need to do today. And then like the four things that you should probably get to do today, and then the three things that like if you must, great. The one I use is actually five, four, and two, I think. I have a different variation on it where the numbers are like inverted a little bit differently. But the idea is that it helps you sit down and think like, okay, what needs to get done today?

You only have so many hours in the day. We are all super busy with work. There’s so many things that need to get done. There’s this great quote about when you’re juggling a lot of things, knowing which balls are glass and which balls are rubber. Number one, number two and three are like, what’s glass, what needs to get done, which will break if they hit the ground? And then 3, 4, 5, 6, those are rubber. That’s like things that you know, great if you get it done today. If you can’t fine. And then the fourth one is like that ball’s already on the ground, like the bottom one. The ball’s already on the ground, you’ll get to it. Like tomorrow it might be a glass ball, but today it’s a rubber ball. That’s fine. And I think it’s great because, I mentioned ADHD a couple times. Another symptom of ADHD is that you’ll have an issue with prioritization.

So like, this is a really great way to train yourself to like figure out, okay, like what is important? And there’ll be times where somebody gives me like a last minute task and they’ll be like, can this get done today? My knee-jerk reaction is like, yes, of course. And then I like look at the list and I’m like is tomorrow okay? Yeah. You get to it. Yeah. So that’s it. I love it. I didn’t say it was by Nora Roberts, but it is.

Well, Robyn, thank you so much for joining me in talking about lists. I love talking about lists, apparently. This is apparently my new favorite subject. I’m going to talk about this all day. I love it. Well, everyone thank you so much for joining us for the first What’s Working episode.

I want to make sure we give Robyn a chance to tell you guys where to find her and give her a chance to shout out some of the things that she’s working on. So, if you are interested, you can always find me on the DEI download. We drop about once a month and Nicole sometimes guests on there as well.

So I would love for anybody to hop in. All right, well, that’s What’s Working. Thank you guys for joining us, and we’ll see you guys next time.

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