Coffee heat rising


One thing that’s fast becoming clear: when your time is unstructured, lists have their uses. Now that I’ve attained Bumhood, it’s amazing how fast time goes by without much getting done!

In the past, long before Mary Kay Ash started teaching her acolytes to scribble their entrepreneurial tasks in lipstick on the bathroom mirror, I used to write to-do lists every day.  In my first job as a publication editor, I would end each day by making a list of the following day’s tasks and leave it on my desk, thereby jump-starting the next day. This pretty much guaranteed the work got done by deadline. Something about checking off accomplishments, no matter how minor, builds momentum.

Lately, though, I’ve found myself killing too much time in cruising the Web and not enough time living, so I decided to revive the list habit, at least in a sporadic way.

Yesterday this quirk gave a hint of its potential power.

Apparently I ate something that made me sick—it left me under the weather all day. I really didn’t feel like doing much. But I had a list. Even though I was dragging around, when the day ended I realized I’d done a surprising number of tasks. Didn’t get out for a long walk with the dog or spend time loafing at the fancy shopping center where Cassie likes to hold forth as the center of everyone’s attention. Never got back to pruning and fertilizing roses. But…

Did the laundry
Chlorinated the pool
Reset the pool equipment
Watered a few plants
Wrote a blog post
Updated Excel spreadsheets
Set up online bill paying for the S-corp’s Visa card
Paid the Visa bill online
Paid the Cox bill online
Wrote & posted three online quizzes for this spring’s students
Learned how to use a new feature of BlackBoard, the online teaching software
Posted syllabi
Emptied out the binder I use as my mobile “office” for the community colleges
Used heavy card stock to build new dividers, all printed out and nifty
Organized binder to accommodate three new classes
Started decluttering the stuffed file cabinet in the garage
Cleaned the car windshield again, it not having turned out to be quite pristine the last time I washed the car
Took the dog for a walk…sort of.

Doubt if I’d have done any of those without a list of things to check off.  Think of all the stuff that would’ve gotten done if I’d felt like moving!

You can, I think, get carried away with this strategy. When I was a little kid, a playmate’s parents used to stick a daily list on his bedroom wall—it filled an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper and specified what he would be doing each moment of the day. Literally: they put down when he would brush his teeth and when he would go from the bathroom back to his bedroom to get dressed and when he would appear in the kitchen for breakfast. Poor  little guy…can you imagine having your life regimented like that?

It’s not necessary to map out every living, breathing minute to use listing to jump-start  your day. Often a rough list of ideas for things to do will get you going, so that once you’re started, you end up accomplishing a great deal more than you would have without the check-it-off impetus. Sometimes I’ll retroactively add to the list activities that I got sidetracked into doing and check them off, just to congratulate myself for getting something done that day. Yesterday, for example, though I never did make the bed, change out of my grubbies, trim the roses, or clean house, I did add things that didn’t require me to move far from the computer: uploaded syllabi as well as quizzes, cleaned last semester’s junk out of the teaching binder and organized it for next semester, and shoveled off the top of my desk.


check off "blog"...

6 thoughts on “Listomania”

  1. My boss is terrific at making lists and keeping to them. I make lists, and I might get one or two things done. I have found lists that had 50 things written on them that ABSOLUTELY needed to get done, and found that I never got around to some of them and no one cared. I usually write lists when I have a deadline for things coming up. I wish I could be more organized. I can’t even think about using an iPod or something like that for organization, I know I would forget to plug it in and charge it. Sigh.

  2. @ Mrs. Accountability: Argh! There’s another example of getting carried away with the list-making. Fifty items? Lordie, it’s New Year’s Resolutions, not a to-do list! IMHO, to be effective a working to-do list should include only enough things that can be done in a reasonable time, say a day or a week.

    Now you could have a kind of meta-to-do list, the gigantic list of things that we have gotta do. But the things that need to be done today, tomorrow, this week…that should include only a few of those, or only manageable steps in bigger to-do’s.

    Too true about the electronic organizers. SDXB has relied on dedicated programs that create to-do lists along with his personal phone directory. But to my mind the problem with those things is that you have to boot up the computer or the software to see them. Nuisance!! So much easier to have your list stuck on the fridge or sitting on your desk.

    The MacBook has a nifty programlet that pops up a thing that looks like an iPhone that you can put your to-do list in. Very nice. But again: the computer has to be on for you to see it. And besides, what IS is just another GD pop-up, an annoyance not a help. I do not want to be annoyed into doing the things I need to do.

  3. I love double lists: the macro lists of things to do this Month, and then the micro lists for the daily stuff that must be done before deadline. I’ve been using the post-it widgets on the side of my computer for listing but it’s just not as satisfying as a real pen and paper list that I can cross off. Deleting the list as you go just doesn’t yield the same visceral satisfaction at the end of the day.

  4. I too am a list maker. I love feeling the accomplishment as I mark off an item. I use the same method of preparing my list day or days before ( using the covey system for years)

    On another note: Have you any information about Room Farm. Nothing since 10/23………is she doing well with her cancer?


  5. @ Cathy: I don’t know! Haven’t heard a thing. Her last post was when she was going into the chemotherapy. She hasn’t put up a word since then.

    FrugalScholar’s blogroll, which also includes Room Farm, gives the number of days since the last post for each link, so it’s easy to see if any action has happened recently. I’ve been keeping the link on my site in hopes that she’ll come back.

    Has anyone else heard anything?

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