Why We Make Lists

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listsDo you like to make lists?  If you do, then you and I should chat.  Have you ever considered going home for the day when you couldn’t find your to-do list at work?  Have you ever made the same list twice?  I have lists of things to do, lists of things to read, lists of things to buy, and lists of things I own.  I love Christmas shopping, mostly because of the list that I’ve prepared for the search.  I like lists so much that if I accomplish something that wasn’t previously on a list, I write it down so I can mark if off.  Maybe that’s why lists are so great.  Sick?  Well, if I am, I’m not alone.  There are closet list makers out there dying to admit it.  So, here’s your chance.  As any self-respecting list maker would, I’m providing a short list of reasons why making lists is a good thing.

Reasons Lists Are Good

  1. Lists can keep you focused. Although I don’t have any attention disorders, I’m always thinking like I might catch it.  So to ward off the problem (my husband has it and I swear it spreads – you should meet my children), I keep lists so I can focus on what’s important.
  2. Lists help you organize your time. Now if you are retired, ignore this.  (You need stuff to do.)  But if you are still trying to juggle hectic schedules of kids, family, work, and other commitments, you must have a list of everything that needs to happen each day.  When a son or daughter gets their driver’s license, you can let up on this, but you have to add “worrying” to the list.  #tradeoffsarenotalwaysgood
  3. Lists save you money. I like to keep as much of the money I earn as possible.  When you are susceptible to ad gimmicks and flashy store displays, it’s always best to walk into a store (especially Wal-Mart) with a list.  If the list isn’t respected by your entire clan, shop without family members that are easily distracted.  You will save much more than money.  Unless you feel guilty for leaving them home and buy them stuff they would have asked for if they had come along to shop in the first place.  (Then, it becomes an issue for counseling, not list making.)
  4. Making lists can be a social thing. I like 43 Things – a social site that allows you to share your goals and lists with others and receive reminders to work on your lists.
  5. Lists are a symbolic representation of you. This is why I add stuff I forgot to add in the first place.  So I look better than I actually am.  If someone accuses you of being something you don’t like, hold up your list as proof of who you really are.  Say, “Look here, buddy!  Look at what I am all about!”  You’ll be feeling so good about yourself that you won’t notice when they start laughing at you.

Then next time someone makes fun of you for your compulsive little habit, tell them that list making is good for you.  If you have other reasons for making lists, tell me.  I’m always looking for ways to defend myself!

Creativity vs. Productivity

But seriously, how do lists help you?  Do lists block your creativity?  Do you find yourself so married to your list that you don’t recognize opportunities elsewhere?  Or do they boost your productivity?  Are you so focused that nothing can get you sidetracked?  What’s the secret to the balance?  I’ve been wondering about how I spend my minutes each day and how many of them are tied to a calendar, schedule, or a list.  While it’s great to mark things off a list, it’s not so great to be the “thing” someone else marked off.  What’s the secret to bringing this into perspective?  If list making is something we’re going to do, how can we become better list makers?  Thanks for reading and posting a comment.  It’s great to share with others!

7 thoughts on “Why We Make Lists

  1. @mmeveilleux (Ingrid) says:

    I love your constant self-analysis. You are a funny writer. I use a quadrant system for lists.
    Row 1 = important
    Row 2 = not important
    Column 1 = urgent
    Column 2 = not urgent
    (This is an old Steven Covey idea.)
    I get all my ideas out then I cross out the not important row (two boxes – gone!)
    Then I attend to important + urgent & make sure I also attend to important + non-urgent (this is the most neglected box!!!!)
    I am perpetually frustrated by people who live in Column 1 only – only urgent stuff gets attention even if it is not important.
    So this is how I organize my lists.
    I also love the tension you identify btw creativity & productivity. I think that could also be a competition between linear and divergent thinking tendencies. Both are valuable.


  2. Jennifer Barnett says:

    Thanks, Ingrid! I really like Covey’s stuff. (His Habits series is great; used it year ago with a group of 14 yr. olds and was enlightening for all of us) I’m glad you brought up the quadrant method. I work at a PBL school and that might be just the tool some of our groups need to keep them on track. I’ll suggest it to both teachers and students when we start back. (Believe it or not, we start school the first week of August! Not a typo, yes beginning of August)

    Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful summer!


  3. Susie says:

    I’m a list-maker wannabe. My problem is keeping the lists all in one place. I have book suggestions, gift ideas, websites, etc. written down all over the place. I’ve started Remember the Milk, googledocs (maybe my best so far), have purchased multiple organizers, planners… you name it. I also had a whiff of success when I kept a simple little notebook in my purse.. for awhile. I really do see the value. Plus, as I get older, I need the reminders!


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