The holiday season is winding down and this is the time of year when most of us have lots of lists of things to do. It also seems that every single blog, tweet and newsletter that I read is sharing their top picks for anything and everything as we close out the year. There’s the Top Ten Best Holiday Videos. The Top 10 Articles of 2014. The Top 7 Marketing Trends. You get the idea. I must say that I do get intrigued when I see these headlines and so I end up reading the articles. It made me stop and think, “Why do we like lists?” Why is it that we respond to information that is packaged in “must read” terms?

I have a few thoughts I would like to share. Call it my “Top 4 Reasons We Like Lists.”

Attention Getting
Most of the headlines on these lists have a call to action that grabs you. They try to instill a sense of urgency. For example, 5 Superfoods to Eat Now, Three Fatal Business Errors You Can Avoid Making, 10 Ways To Improve Your Bottom Line. Business owners are doers so this type of communication resonates and most of us respond to the action-oriented language.

Today everything is complicated so most of us are looking for a way to simplify all of the things we have to do. That’s why we like lists or step-by-step instructions. The popular For Dummies books have mastered the art of taking complex topics and providing information in digestible doses. Bloggers have also successfully used this technique.  They take lots of information, aggregate it and then synthesize it down into these lists. We all love it because we don’t have to spend our time searching for information. Of course, sometimes we read these articles and discover there is really no new information. It is so simplified that we feel duped.

Easy to Read
Lists make things easy to read or skim. One of the biggest mistakes that I see with most communication whether it is a print piece, PowerPoint or a video is putting too much information on the “screen” or in the communication. People need white space so that they can see and absorb the information.  Often, a list puts the key information in the headers so it is easy to find. Then it will contain links to other sources if you want more information.

Comfortable Format
Lists have been around forever. We are comfortable with them. That’s why they are used in so many situations. Comedians use them for quick laughs.  Publishers use them to rank businesses as the Most Admired, Best Places to Work and so on.  We all have “to do” lists. They help us get organized, decide on priorities and focus on what is important. There is nothing like the feeling of getting all the way through your list for the day or the week. Lists also work well to help keep employees on task

I am sure there is a scientific study that validates the effectiveness of lists. There might even be a list of key studies on lists.  Suffice it to say that lists do work. And in the spirit of the holidays I hope if something is important to you and your business in the New Year that you make a list and check it twice. Happy New Year.


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