Dream Big—And Keep a List: Meet Paula Rizzo, author of Listful Thinking

Paula Rizzo, founder of ListProducer.com and author of the new book, Listful Thinking
Paula Rizzo, founder of ListProducer.com and author of the new book, Listful Thinking

Paula Rizzo is an Emmy award-winning television producer and founder of the productivity site ListProducer.com.  She’s also the author of the new book Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed. I recently had Paula on my show, Solopreneur on the Whatever It Takes network, to talk about how she stays on top of her stuff and beats distraction, which she does.

In this episode, Paula shows us how to use lists and other productivity tactics so that life doesn’t spiral out of control. She also gives us a little “list rehab,” since mixing everyday to-do’s with life list items will addle your brain and stall your productivity (read: don’t put “buy milk” on the same list as “write a book”). Here’s some more about Paula, how she came to be “The List Producer,” and a few of her productivity hacks from the show.

Do you have a day job?

My day job is as a senior TV producer. I juggle entrepreneurship with working a traditional job at the moment. It can be tough at times but I’m a big fan of outsourcing and setting up lots of systems so I don’t get overwhelmed. My lists serve me very well in this department.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?  

I wanted to be Barbara Walters. I’ve always been very curious so I think I’ve always been drawn to journalism and news.

When did you realize this was (or wasn’t) going to happen?

I’m a very focused person by nature so I had my eye on the prize for a long time. But after learning what everyone does in a newsroom I knew being a producer was for me. Producers are the ones who call the shots and tell everyone what to do. That sounded perfect to me. Plus I didn’t want to live all over the country in small markets to become a reporter.

What is it about your life now that you can’t believe you do, and wouldn’t believed if someone told you 5-10 years ago?

I can’t believe I wrote a book about lists of all things! I’ve always wanted to write a book but I never imagined it would be this one. If you told me I’d be a TV producer at a major network in NYC, I would have believed you. Because that’s what I’ve always worked towards. But this newfound life as the List Producer is one I really didn’t envision. I’m so grateful I’ve been taken down this path to help people boost their productivity and manage overwhelm more effectively.

Where do you think most of us waste our time? What do you recommend doing to change it?

I’m a huge researcher, almost to a fault. Analysis paralysis is a really tough thing to get over when you’re starting a new venture. But the truth is sometimes you need to just get started and figure it out as you go. I should really take my own advice here but I know how difficult it can be.

What lesson(s) did you learn the hard way (could be your career, or life in general):

I wrote a blog post recently that got a lot of great feedback because it’s the first time I publicly talked about the disaster that was buying my first apartment in NYC and renovating it. I’m a huge optimist and I was positive that things would turn out just as they should. They didn’t. And with each passing day I became more and more depressed and upset—something that is way out of character for me. But what I learned from the experience was that sometimes I need to really go with the flow and stop trying to control everything. That is a huge wakeup call for me and something I work on everyday.

Any other advice you want solopreneurs/entrepreneurs to know? Resources you recommend or folks you like? 

Evernote for me is like a second brain. It’s a place I can stick anything! I can put things in folders, share them with different people, and search by keyword. I wrote most of my book in Evernote—I would get ideas on the subway, and you know how that is, you e-mail them to yourself or write them down on a piece of paper, and by the time you get home you’re not sure where that great idea went! If you put it in Evernote, it’s always there.

I also recommend keeping a running list with friends or colleagues so you can make sure to talk about all the topics you need to get to when you see them.

For more about Paula and her tips on how to reach your productivity peak, visit her website and pick up her new book, Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed

Watch a new episode of Solopreneur every Tuesday at 4pm ET!