I’ve learned that a checklist is counter-productive.

This is not for everyone, but for me (The Completist) I can’t function with outstanding items. Thankfully I’ve learned a better way, even though some lists are unavoidable.

Young Struggles

I remember my first sticker chore chart. We received a very nominal amount of money for each chore – maybe 10 cents. I would go down the list and complete all of my chores for the day. It was a good way for me to earn money to buy my trading cards.

Deluxe Toy and Hobby sign (Martins Ferry, OH)
Deluxe Toy and Hobby was one of my go-to locations for buying trading cards.

I would head to Deluxe Toy and Hobby in Martins Ferry and take my chore money to buy a new pack of cards. Each week I would get the newest Power Ranger pack. I would arrange the cards in their sleeves by the number and leave the slots empty for the numbers I didn’t have. I would obsess and wouldn’t stop until I had the complete set. This also means I had stacks of duplicates.

Thankfully, I was smart enough to realize I couldn’t get complete sets of all NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB decks. I, on the other hand, did find it necessary to play and win the Super Bowl with every team in Tecmo Super Bowl.

Why? Because!

Jerry Ball, Detroit Lions on Tecmo Super Bowl

Actually, I have no idea why – but I did. Lots of hours spent and to this day I can still recall many of the Star players for each team. Jerry Ball was a beast for the Lions.

Positives and Negatives of Being a Completist

I’ve learned that I am a bit obsessive. If I like something, I need to prove that I really like something. You know, like binge listening to 200 backlog episodes of wrestling podcasts. Or maybe reading 40 Disney Theme park history books in a year. How about buying and listening to every song ever recorded by a band? Yes, these tendencies seem like overkill – yet, my brain won’t stop asking me if I have done everything.

The Completist Eric Hersey's Walt Disney World Books
I have several bookshelves full of Walt Disney World History Books.

I’ve learned to be very careful with new hobbies. I might like to collect old action figures (like old Kenner Star Wars toys), but when I realize that would make me go broke – I stop myself. On the other hand, if the total was attainable, I might give it a go.

  • Funko POP – nope, impossible to keep up
  • Watch all Marvel Movies in order – that sounds feasible
  • Meta Data and Tracking

Besides having a compulsion to complete lists, this also is the case for complete data.

Have you ever imported a CD in iTunes and it didn’t import the album cover? Maybe most of you are downloading the albums from iTunes and don’t have this issue.

When you add a contact on your phone, do you add the first and last name? How about a picture? An email address? Workplace?

These are all things that I feel required to do. Having incomplete information just doesn’t feel right.

Where some people fear giving too much information, I wish more was tracked. I download apps that let me track my location, rate my experience, and earn points for doing new things. In some way or another, I have been doing this since I had a smartphone. Not only that, but I also keep track of what I eat, watch on TV, and review nearly everything. If you could combine and download all of this data, you could easily create an AI version of me (or at least my tastes).

The Negatives of Being The Completist

Too Many Episodes

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first. Being a completist makes it really difficult to sample anything. If I see a show on Netflix but also see it had 13 seasons, I won’t watch an episode. This is a major reason why I gave up watching pro wrestling a few years ago.

Attention to Details on Items That Don’t Matter

Journey's Discography and Album Art - The Completist Made sure they are all the right size

I spend more time tracking and going through lists than necessary. In the grand scheme, having an album cover 600×600 doesn’t matter. Yet, if it’s 500×550, I will spend an hour finding the correct size and replace it on iTunes.

Sometimes Late to the Party

I can be slow to sample things I know I probably like. For example, I prefer to listen to albums on my phone that I purchased – because it tracks my play count and ratings. I probably would love Spotify, but that data won’t go into my music database so I won’t use it.

The Positives of Being The Completist

Master of the Universe

If you use the lists for good, you end up knowing a ton about a certain topic. There is a reason why I know a ton about web design, search engine optimization, and web analytics. I became interested and read, watched, and listened to everything about web design and similar topics.

Forcing me to Try

I am open to experiencing new places and things. Most apps I use allow you to be rewarded for going to new places or reviewing new locations. I will step out of my comfort zone to mark a new item off of my list.

No Shortcuts

The Completist Eric Hersey's RFFL Win-Loss Schedule
Head-to-Head results mattered. Especially when I need to rub it in my opponents face the week we square-off.

My thirst for knowledge or complete information has given me great problem-solving skills. One time I wanted to know an easy way to find out my win-loss record against my friend in fantasy football. Next thing I knew, I created a website (likely would have cost 10k plus) from scratch to give me this data. It forces me to find solutions and not shortcuts.

When Attention to Details Do Matter

If you need to have complete information, often you need to be attentive to details. Nerdy things like schema and structured data doesn’t seem to matter to the user, but I have a breakdown if I find out this isn’t correct or used on my sites. If we use two different colors when we should only be using one, this is the stuff that keeps me up at night.

What to Do About Those Checklists?

I went through a time management training not so long ago and checklists were addressed. Much like my issue with checklists, they are unproductive for most people. We become fixated on the items and often these items are not of equal importance. We might be taking 15 minutes on folding socks because it’s on our list and miss a deadline because it was down further on the list.

Instead of lists, using your calendar is the better approach. If you have an item that needs to be done, schedule it on your calendar. This could be done later that day, next week, or three months from now. Your brain understands that it is on a list, but you don’t stress over it. In a way, you completed the task by adding it to your calendar. At the start of the day (or the night before), you look at your calendar and have an accurate ‘list’ of items that should be accomplished that day.

Eric Hersey's Walt Disney World Planning Calendar - Being a Completist
This is actually a slow week.

This has worked wonders for me. Not only do I find myself more productive, but my calendar being full of tasks (in time-blocks) also satisfies my need for tracking everything.

Granted, this exercise is just a small part of time management. If you want to learn more, I suggest some Dave Crenshaw Books or online courses. You may not suffer from my extreme tracking or completist attitude, but everyone can be a little more organized and productive.

Maybe you will get back an extra hour on your day. Just enough time to play a game of Madden and win the super bowl with the Steelers….or the Browns….or the Packers….(and so on)…..

The Completist in you needs 32 rings.