While you may have plenty of experience of making lists, such as for your to-dos and goals, have you ever thought of making a meta-list? A meta-list is a list of lists.

Which lists do you think it would be worthwhile to create?

Here’s an example of a meta-list:

  • Places to visit
  • Goals to achieve
  • Skills to develop
  • Experiences to share with a relationship partner
  • Programming languages to learn
  • Technologies to study
  • Potential purchases to research
  • Exercises or types of workouts to try
  • Exercise equipment to acquire for a home gym
  • Fears to face and overcome
  • Kitchen items to replace or upgrade
  • Home maintenance tasks to do
  • Home upgrades to do
  • New business ideas
  • New product or service ideas
  • New marketing campaign ideas
  • Email list providers to investigate
  • Web hosting platforms to evaluate
  • Sexual experiences to have
  • Coaching programs and personal development courses to invest in
  • Books to read
  • Movies to watch
  • Games to play
  • Apps to try
  • Websites to check out
  • Articles to read
  • Videos to watch
  • Dietary improvements to make
  • Favorite healthy recipes
  • Favorite wines
  • Favorite Star Trek episodes
  • Fitness milestones to achieve
  • Yoga positions
  • Best running shoes
  • Investment opportunities to research
  • Holiday gifts to buy for friends and family
  • Activities that make you happy
  • Most effective productivity practices
  • Personal values
  • Favorite memories
  • Restaurants to try
  • National parks to visit

So a meta-list is like a shopping list of shopping lists, not just for buying items at a store but for experiences to have across many areas of life.

I’ve maintained a lot of lists over the years, including many like the ones above, and I’ll tell you that they’re easy to create, but they also require tremendous patience. It’s one thing to work on a singular list of goals, but when you have many such lists, it can easily feel overwhelming at first.

When you see how easy it is to brainstorm items and how long it takes to actually do them, you may be tempted to abandon the practice, but I urge you to stick with it. There is a payoff, but it takes time.

Those lists can help you stay alert for when some item on some list becomes more accessible than usual, encouraging you to snag an opportunity while it’s hot. You can also periodically skim your lists to grab new ideas to explore. Such lists are great for whenever your life starts becoming a bit stale or predictable – they can give you so many ideas for mixing things up.

When it comes to meta-lists, think in terms of decades, not just months or years. You may have an item on one of your lists that you don’t get to for 20 years, but it’s still satisfying to check it off.

There were many items I added to a list during my 20s, and I didn’t finally get to it until my 40s. Some examples include traveling to various European countries, going skydiving, doing an extended water fast, going to Disney World and Epcot Center, and reading several Mark Twain books including Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

Note that you don’t have to fill in all of these lists at once. Just create your one meta-list of the lists you may want to create. Then create a stub for each list, such as in the Notes or Reminders app on your phone. Whenever an idea for any of these lists pops into your mind, such as a movie a friend recommends, you can easily add it to the appropriate list. You can even do this verbally by telling a smart device to do it for you. Rachelle and I use our Apple Watches to add items to the grocery list whenever an item runs low. Then we’ll automatically have access to that list on our watches and phones whenever we’re out.

You can also use crowdsourcing to populate some of your lists. Ask people for book and movie recommendations, for instance. You may be surprised at how efficient this is. A single Facebook post can fill up your movie queue with some outstanding gems.

Lists are relatively easy to maintain since they just sit there till you need them. I especially find it helpful to have a “books to read” list since then I’m never left wondering what to read next. Most items on my list were suggested by friends.

While it may take time to fill out a bunch of lists, it only takes a few minutes to create a meta-list. Why not take a short break to do it right now? You could even copy the one I brainstormed above and edit it to suit your needs.