7 Reasons* Why Numbered Lists are a Waste of Time

While there’s supposedly nothing new under the sun, I have noticed a change in the inevitable onslaught of New Year’s Lists this year.

Namely, they’re longer.

So now, instead of a nice, round 10 (God knew what he was doing), the lists have 14 items, or 27 — or even more!

Sheesh, who’s got that kind of time?!?

List Inflation

What’s behind such “list inflation?”

Here’s my  . . . umm . . . list of three reasons.

One.  List Compilers overshoot “10” for the same reason (some) Realtors list a home at $248,719.31 instead of $249,900:  it stands out.

The catch:  it’s a transparent gimmick.

Like cockroaches, unfortunately, there’s seldom just one.

Two.  I suppose it’s also possible that, in today’s hyper-information age, there’s genuinely more to say.

But that’s the whole point of a short, succinct list in the first place:  to prioritize for your readers.

When your list has 42 (!) things on it, by definition, you’ve failed in that a priori journalistic duty. 

Three.  Financial motives, i.e., the writer was paid by the word. 

Alas, that’s something you can’t automatically rule out in today’s tough economic times (does anyone besides Thomas L. Friedman actually make a living as a journalist these days?).

So, as a service to busy readers of this blog, here’s my pre-vetted list of 2012 lists that — I’m happy to report — you can safely skip:

10. “31 Ways to Get Smarter — Faster”; Newsweek (1/9/2012)

9. “The 27 Rules of Conquering the Gym;”  The Wall Street Journal (1/5/2012)

8.  “The 45 Places to Go in 2012“;  The New York Times (1/6/2012)

7.  “17 Scary 4th Quarter Numbers”; Morningstar

6.  “Five Questions that Investors Face in 2012”; MSN Money

You get the idea . . .

*OK, OK . . . . I only have three reasons why numbered lists are a waste of time.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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