30 Principles for Writing Lists of 30

Random Observation/Comment #630: I’m okay being called “that guy that writes lists of 30” all the time.

Why this list?

I’m obsessed with writing lists of 30. It all started from my Epic 30 Day Challenge in 2012 and the subsequent 30 Lists of 30 Challenge. From there I wrote a memoir of my 20s in My Life in Lists of 30. After having my daughter, I wrote a sequel called Our Life in Lists of 30 (still adding some finishing touches). Eventually, I’ll probably write “Her Life in Lists of 30”, “My Midlife Crisis in Lists of 30” or “A Lifetime of Lists of 30”.

Why 30?

Why not 10? 21? 42? To be honest, it’s just an arbitrary number that matched the 30 day challenge. After writing more than 100 of these lists, I think I’ve gotten a hang of it and it’s been overall helpful with staying creative. It’s the process of writing these lists that makes it valuable. The opportunity to focus on a topic from all different angle using some mental gymnastics.

For this list, I’ve kept the order and the broken down the thought process or questions that have led me to these answers.

How do you get started?
1. Write your list in any format that makes you comfortable: Keep Note, pen and paper, whiteboard, mindmap, typewriter, keyboard, laptop
2. Write your list in any environment that makes you comfortable: On a train during a commute, in a coffee shop, on your bed before you nap or sleep for the night
3. Just start writing off of your initial instincts. Getting to 10 should be easy (right?).
4. Choose a topic that you’re familiar or at least comfortable with
5. Initially approach the angles with Who, What, Where, When, Why, How?
6. Save your favorite answers to either the “top 5” spot or “final 5” spots (as these are often read more closely – especially number 30 tends to be a personal joke)

What limits do you give yourself?
7. Write your list of 30 within a day
8. Do not research the topic by directly looking for other lists
9. Do not directly copy from other post’s ideas (although it’s okay to be inspired by them)

How do you refine it?
10. Be methodical about your approach (whichever you choose to take)
11. Categorize your lists by asking questions around the topic. Have your lists answer your own questions
12. Bold certain words that summarize your list
13. Do it alone or do it together – Talk to people about the topic for inspiration
14. Try to relate your everyday activities centered around your topic
15. Try to not get distracted: Turn off your music and get rid of any open tabs while writing

What happens when you get half way there?
16. Re-read your existing list
17. Dive deeper into some of your answers and expand
18. Regroup all your answers in different ways to find patterns or gaps. Mind mapping is useful here.

What do you do if you get stuck?
19. Re-ask the topic with a new perspective – try zooming in and out or looking at adjacent areas
20. If you get stuck, don’t work on the list for a few hours
21. If you get stuck, re-invent the topic all together
22. If you get really stuck, try to make ridiculous jokes about the topic

What should you not do?
23. Do not give up on a list when you’re almost finished
24. Do not convince yourself this list is not worth writing because you can’t finish it
25. Do not tell everyone you’re writing this list and give you additional pressure to finish it with style

What non-obvious advice can you give?
26. Do physical activity like exercise or sports in order to forget about the topic
27. It’s okay to start another list on another topic (but now you have 2 lists to complete…)
28. Accept that your list will not be perfect and will not cover everything

What do you save for list?
29. Remember to have fun!
30. Be proud of yourself for finishing each list
31. (This always happens…) Come up with an extra one and try to figure out how you can narrow your list

~See Lemons Obsessed with Lists of 30

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