Friday, September 14, 2018

The Art of the To-Do List

I love lists. I have a list for pretty much everything. Lately, I've been challenging myself to re-think all the things I say I love. Shopping, going to restaurants, travel, and yes, even lists. When I was at Grail Springs with my friend, I found myself sitting alone in the hot tub one afternoon. I started writing a phantom blog post in my mind called something along the lines of, "There is more to life than your to-do list."

In my journal, I wrote: Life is a beautiful story, not a series of "to-dos."

In the moment, I firmly believed this. I started thinking about throwing all my lists out the window. I started thinking about the merits of writing in paragraphs rather than in bullet points. 

As quick as this idea came to me, it went away. Like I said, I love lists.

No, I don't want to spend my life making lists and doing things only to check off boxes. No, that would be stressful, and lists don't want you to feel that way. I believe there's a healthy way to use lists. I want my lists to be a tool to enrich my life. Here are a few ways I like to use to-do lists (and yes, I am writing in bullet points):
  • Ongoing open-ended lists: I have many lists to collect items that I don't want to forget. It's essentially a brain dump, and it relaxes me to know that I don't have to try to remember something. Grocery lists are in this category for me. Other examples of ongoing open-ended lists include: "books to read," or "restaurants to try," or "stuff to Google." If I go back to the list and something no longer interests me, I have no issues deleting the item. If I forget about the list or never refer to it again, I don't fret about it. I was meant to forget.
  • Weekly and daily lists: I use both daily lists and weekly lists. I don't try to come up with things to put on these lists. Rather, I only add items I want to remember. Examples of items on these lists include: "return library book by x date," or "go for blood work," or "book optometrist appointment." If I decide not to do something or to postpone something, I don't make a big deal about it. If I don't have anything pressing for the day or week, I don't make a list.
  • Other time limited lists: I will be posting my 101 in 1001 list tomorrow. I considered scrapping this when I was questioning my use of lists, but I think this collection of items serves a purpose. This list contains a mishmash of very different things, but it usually reflects my direction at any given point in time. It's a bit of a guidepost for what I want to learn, explore, do in the next 2.74 years. As with my other lists, I don't write this list in blood. If I no longer want to do something on the list, I remove it. No biggie.
A to-do list can be a valuable tool. The key is to be flexible. Just because something is on the list doesn't mean you have to do it.

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