There’s two types of people in this world (in this case, the Western), those that make lists, and those that don’t. I’m all for balance, which is why I find myself recalibrating my penchant for lists often. Living in a (post)modern world has sort of tipped the scales in favor of the list-maker, and has also pre-destined most of us to become list makers. Or to be made to feel guilty if we’re not organizing. So, in the past whereas it was more common for both men and women to spend time scrupulously attending to self-development in journals and letters (but usually only at night), now it is more likely that we are all task oriented and much of the day via iPad, smartphone, or even just old fashion paper planner.
Now, If you’re a list maker, you’re probably not going to be convinced to put down the implements and just say “Yes”, regardless of how many times you watch Jim Carrey’s movie Yes Man. (for myself, that’s 2 times). Nobody is going to convince you that you should stop, so you should in turn shower your fellow humans with the same respect of not trying to convince them to start. Chances are, enough articles aggregating in their RSS feed will convince them sooner or later.
That said, in my own life, I really do try to maintain the balance between list-making and life-living. These are a few of my own strategies for when life becomes too much “to do” and too little “doing.”
1. Make a Top 5. That is, what are the Top 5 things I want to do Today. This simple tactic forces me to curtail endless “but I should do” regrets, arrests frustration over time limits in life, and magnifies what is important.
2. If lists are longer than 20 items I try to Erase or Recycle them after three days. Somewhat drastic, considering the amount of detail in some of them, but having Go to Babies R Us written down for two weeks hasn’t made me more likely to go.
3. Do RIGHT NOW the item that has made it onto the most lists, or Identify why it’s not getting done. (For example, I’ve had “take boots to cobbler” on my mental list for ages). Is there another “to do” that’s competing with this, a worry about what might happen if you do do this, or is the item too vague? And, if you still find yourself recoiling from the item, just Let. It. Go. You might want this to happen now, but if it really isn’t vital to your survival, or likely to slap you with a large fine, chances are it can be done later with little difference.
4. Avoid writing items you would normally do, or clarify the part of the task that is most important. For example I sometimes write “Check Email.” Yes, I do that daily (or every other day), but the onerous part is the five to ten minutes it would take to track down the documents needed to make a reply to someone.
5. Take a walk. If I find that in one day I’ve made more than two lists, it probably means I’ve been sitting down too much. The best solution is to simply get up and see something new, the park, downtown Salem, the ocean. Anything.
Anyone else have any strategies for balancing lists and life?