I List, Therefore I Am

It’s grocery shopping day!

That can only mean one thing—making a list. Well, for me it means making one more list. On any given day I run out of the house with three or four different lists going.

There’s the daily to-do list I keep in my BlackBerry, where I put everything because my memory is a black hole that sucks up significant information while leaving behind lots of ‘80s music trivia. (I’m not exaggerating —flossing, taking my vitamins, switching out the shoes in my closet from summer to winter, putting out the trash—it’s in the BB, daily).

Then there is the abbreviated to-do list, when I scroll through the BlackBerry to make a handwritten list of the things that MUST get done today or something horrible will happen to me. (I haven’t yet figured out what that horrible thing is but I know it’s out there.)

There is the office “Master To-Do” list. This is housed on a yellow legal pad and is about 10 pages long. Whenever I get a new action item at work, it immediately goes on the next free line in an urgent but futile attempt to avoid client meltdowns.

Sound a little ridiculously unmanageable? Right you are! That’s why there’s the office “Weekly To-Do” list. Every Monday morning I go through all ten pages of the master list and pick out every item that must get done if I don’t want to get fired that week, whether by my clients or by my boss. I work off that list, which is on a second yellow legal pad, all week, diligently crossing off projects as they are completed (and inevitably adding more as the week goes on). Last week’s list was three-and-a-half pages long by Friday at 5.

Which is why it’s important to make the office “Daily To-Do” list…That’s right. Every morning I go through the weekly to-do list and make a notation in red of what needs to be done that day.

Are you exhausted yet? Take a deep breath because we still have the personal lists:
• a master grocery list in the BlackBerry that I add to all week as I run out of stuff in the kitchen
• the multiple lists of things I would like to do in the next month, season, or year—places I want to go, people I want to call, etc.
• the list of books I want to read (a couple of hundred or so)
• the list of books I’ve read so far this year (it’s not enough to simply cross them off the “to be read list”)
• the list of wardrobe items I need to buy for the coming season
• the list of gift ideas for people’s birthdays and Christmas
• the list of ways I can be more creative in all aspects of my life

And now there’s a list of blog topic ideas which so far consists of about a dozen different scraps of paper all over the house, car and office (and I apologize in advance for some of what you’re going to be subjected to).

Some of the lists are in my BlackBerry, some are on my laptop, some are in my nice-and-neat acid green daily organizer (you will have to pry my paper book from my cold, dead hands), and some are on notepads, Post-It® Notes, and used envelopes in every room of the house. Some I keep forever like a shorthand diary. Some disappear never to be seen again, which is fine. I only make the lists to unburden my brain and move on.

My lists give my everyday activities a bit of a Zen quality. If I don’t have to worry about juggling it all in my head and possibly forgetting something important, I can dump the thoughts on a piece of paper and concentrate on what I’m doing at the moment. This lets me glide through the grocery store, for example, instead of going down each and every aisle to see what I need. I can go right to the shelf I want and spend the next 10 minutes weighing the pros and cons of the Barilla Marinara Sauce against the Colavita tomato-and-basil sauce until I finally put them both down, buy some tomatoes, and go home and make my own. Ah, nirvana!

More importantly, there’s that glorious victory of scratching through the words on the page because a task is done and in the past (a check mark is simply not final enough).

There was a time I wouldn’t have admitted the extent of my list-making in a public forum, but I know I’m not alone. There’s an entertaining book called To Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us by Sasha Cagen. It’s a small, glossy, fantastically designed collection of photos of people’s lists and commentary on what the entries mean. There are daily lists, life lists, dream job lists, perfect mate lists, sex lists, like and dislike lists…let’s just say you’ll find something that makes you feel like you’re not the weirdest (or most anal) person you know.

I admire people for sending Cagen their lists to publish; I consider mine highly personal and don’t like to share them. I would be mortified if anyone ever stumbled onto some of my lists. I struggled with including a picture of today’s grocery list on this blog, and as you can see, you are only privy to part of the list. That’s why I jump whenever someone grabs my BlackBerry to play with it or “try it out.” I really don’t want you knowing that I need to buy tampons today or how much I weighed this morning or that I’ve put making a new list on my existing list. You wouldn’t open up someone’s day planner and peruse the pages so you really shouldn’t do it with their smart phone, either. (You’ve been warned.)

For me, if it’s not on a list somewhere, it doesn’t exist.

Which is why none of my lists ever include Glen Beck, pimento cheese, or any type of exercise boot camp.

The List of Lists

Today's Grocery List (partial)

This entry was posted in Lists and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to I List, Therefore I Am

  1. bradylife says:

    I keep a spiral notebook that is referred to as my brain.It goes everywhere with me. It houses everything from shopping lists to packing lists, and phone numbers and email addresses, phone messages, job hunting messages… pretty much everything. When I get to the end of one notebook, I flip through it, and write all of the important numbers and addresses and important info onto the front couple of pages of the next notebook. Then, I file it, so that if I need to look back for something, I can still find it! You are not alone in your need to keep all of that stuff organized.

  2. Kathleen says:

    I’m a list maker, too. On yellow pads, on yellow stickies, on envelopes, in Moleskine notebooks, in my diary, in my iphone. In my head – but those I can’t keep track of.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s