I was living with my boyfriend’s parents a few years back, well, more like twenty years back, And what I took away from the experience other than an awkward time was writing lists. His dad would write daily and weekly lists, and he kept to them religiously. He would cross off each item as he accomplished it. The lists were lengthy. But he always got what he needed done and still had time for his ritual evening filled with football and beer.
I had noticed his ritual, yet I didn’t give birth to it until about 15 years later. I decided to go back to college. I was a year into it and overwhelmed, too many things to do and not enough time. One night as I sat wired from espresso scrambling to finish a final paper I remembered the lists from the boyfriend’s father. I started making a list for homework — when to do it, when it was due. The list grew adding work, finding apartment, study groups, coffee breaks, etc.
Now I live by my list. I have a list for goals — present and future, a list for daily and weekly activities ranging from house cleaning to reading, writing, groceries, dance class. You name it, it is on my list. I place a box next to the activity and if I get it done I check the box, if not I cross it out and place it on the list for the next day. I always put the more important things first — waking up, yoga and coffee. The day has to start somehow. The rest of the list will read about doctor calls/appointments, jobs and emails, housework. . . the fun stuff.
Don’t just take my word for it, browse any section in a book store or library for time management. Most books regurgitate a demand for a daily task list. And honestly to-do lists are a way of how most business’ keep chaos out the way of the consumer — menus. Menus are not just kept at restaurants, any vendor has a complete menu or catalog of their goods or services — A community center having a list of activities and where to sign up — in list format. Lists can be used for any need or goal whether personal or business related.
Keeping a list may seem daunting, and it is. Only it is one of those daunting things that ends up creating fun; Time with your kids, or to read that favorite book, shopping for nothing — shoes, cooking instead of microwaving. Thinking of to-do lists as a way of centering your focus and not as another thing to do may be helpful.
Don’t forget to be spontaneous, however, a list is only there for convenience of timeline, reminders, and organization. Make an activities list and stick to it in a way that you are comfortable. Be as lose or as agile as you feel fit for your life. Sometimes I end up doing the complete opposite of I wrote down, or just none of it and get completely side tracked… I just keep going.
My lists can get quite long, but I get everything done, usually, and I have learned that it is OK to divert a little from the plan and not be hard on myself for it. Making lists for myself has not only trained me to complete goals in a timely manner, but it has also taught me patience — with myself and others, forgiveness, and the willingness to allow myself peace in time and control over my time.
It’s catching and addictive, My life partner is starting to make lists now too.