To Do and To Be

My name is Jeff and I am a list-aholic.

It all started when I was a stressed out teenager in high school and my Dad told me that instead of worrying about all the things to do- make a list. Write it down. Prioritize it with a number and knock things out- one at a time. He took out a long, long legal pad and helping me write down everything I needed to do. He suggested I put an A, B or C next to it. Then he told me do the A’s first, then the B’s and finally the C’s. It was a great life lesson from someone who went to Valley Forge Military Academy and had an accounting and finance background.

When I was young, I would watch my mom make her weekly shopping lists. She would scribble down the butter, eggs and milk notes on a little pad and kept it in the kitchen so she wouldn't forget a thing. Sometimes it was hard to read what she wrote and I would add funny things or scribbles on to her list as joke like new car for Jeff or 32 boxes of M&Ms. 

I am constantly writing things down and putting them on my master list to help me remember. Whether its ideas for blogs, things I want to cook or projects from work, it isn't real if it doesn’t show up as a task.  I will occasionally put a note on a yellow Post It or a random scrap of paper but can’t wait to get it on THE BIG LIST as if a weight was lifted from my shoulders just by writing it down. I need help. 

This is an odd confession for someone who wants to be in the moment and live in the now. However, I find that I can be much more present when I know I am not going to forget something that I wrote down and put a date against it. It can free me from waking up in the middle of the night with worries that I need to get the car inspected, did I pay a certain bill or complete a project at work. With my To Do list--- I can live my To Be list. It is a bit Zen and bit silly but works for me. 

I love lists
I like finding people's to do list in their shopping carts or crumbled up on sidewalks or in the parking lot. What things are preoccupying others? How do they keep track of stuff that needs to happen? How do they organize their day?  

My favorite format for listing- okay I made that word up- is electronic.  I used to keep a legal pad with things to do for the week and I would strike things off the list as they got done. It was a wonderful feeling checking things off giving me happiness in the illusion that I was getting things done.  The electronic list in Tasks in Outlook is my favorite. A clicking or checking off a box is oddly soothing.

I’m a monogamous list maker- only one for me. I can’t keep dual lists in different places. It gives me a headache. I need to view my list at least a few times each day to make sure I am dealing with A level things and not the B’s and C’s at work. I list way too many things on my list but I know that over time, many things aren’t really to do’s but partial needs not fully thought out. So the list gets whittled down from time to time- refreshed- and I feel very satisfied.

I encourage people who work with me to keep lists too so that if I ask them to do something, I don’t need to remind them and we have agreement about when it is do.  Sheepishly, I will from time-to-time have on my list to follow up with people about things on their list. Maybe I need an intervention.  Do they make any over the counter medicine- Tylenol List Maker?

Sarah, my Hawaiian princess daughter is also a fabulous list maker. She puts little square boxes next to her hand written lists and checks the box (or fills it in) as if she is taking the SAT’s.  Ra El’s lists prior to her travel will probably go into the Museum of Lists someday for thoroughness, complexity and preparedness.  Fanny, my aspiring LA actress, has also come down with the family list disease but it’s very improvised in form- just like Fanny.

Over many years, I have come to realize what an illusion my list making is but I am addicted beyond cure.  Listing is a way of trying to control the world- my surroundings- things in my world. Maybe I am overthinking things, but some days I realize that I lose some joy and spontaneity when I am so managed by my own organization.  Several months ago, I put on my list that I should write a blog about my list habit.

I’m glad I wrote that down.

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