A List To Remember

I have always been a list lover. All my endeavors have begun with the excitement of making a list.

Some of the things I made lists of

  • Things to do

  • Things to buy

  • Bills to pay

  • Habits to work on / Things to do regularly

  • Books to read

  • Movies to watch

  • Bloggers to follow

  • Websites to subscribe to

  • Sites to submit guest posts to

  • Short-term plans

  • Long-term plans

  • Software to download

  • Wardrobe must-haves

  • Contents of CD/DVD drives

  • Things to pack for travel

What I tried/used to keep up with my list obsession

How my lists usually ended up

  • Torn

  • Forgotten

  • Lost

  • In the wash with my jeans

  • Uninstalled

  • Deleted

What my lists had in common:

  1. I had fun making them.

  2. They were pretty much useless (once in a while I did refer to them and check things off).

Maybe I had this need to create lists just because they made me feel more organized, not because they actually did so, at least not all the time. And since I never referred to them again, their usefulness was hardly that.

Just when I was thinking of a few more lists to create and a new way or two of storing them, I told myself, “Who am I kidding? These lists will go the same way as the last thousand."

I’d finally had enough of this list-making business, because it looked like I was fooling myself and getting less done even as I kept chanting the name of productivity.

That day I stopped making lists, or at least I started sticking to just one. It is a sort of idea archive and to-do list rolled into one.

A few things about my all-in-one list

  • It has an entire notebook dedicated to it, not because I expect to fill it with to-do items, but because I want all my thoughts and tasks in one place.

  • It is not about anything specific.

  • I don’t check or update it daily.

  • I don’t use dates (I’m thinking I should).

  • If I want to pursue a new line of thought, I just insert a divider below the previous content.

  • I don’t use page numbers, because when I flip through the pages and see the flow of my thoughts, my mind intuitively remembers where the thing I’m looking for is written.

  • Unlike before, I don’t use any sort of markings or legends to distinguish between one kind of item and another. I just write down things as and when they occur to me and in whatever form they occur to me. I’m working on improving my note-taking abilities though, because many of my project ideas seem to get away from me easily*.

Lists do make a lot of sense when used in writing, because they lend structure and clarity to words, both at the visual and mental levels. I use them in my writing wherever I feel they’re appropriate.

Create your own

If you’re also looking to get past this list-making habit, give this catchall method a shot.

Maintain a single notebook (a digital or paper one). Limit list items mainly to tasks you have to accomplish today. If you have to remember any upcoming event like someone’s birthday, make a note of it. If you feel that there are too many things on your mind and writing them down will help you empty it, go right ahead.

Just before you go to bed, update the list with what you have finished today and the tasks you have to take care of tomorrow.

After a few days of sticking to this method, you might realize, as I have, that you don’t need multiple lists. Just one will do, and the fewer items it has the better. Gradually, you won’t even need to update/check it daily (except to recover your ideas) because your mind throws out reminders just at the right time.

As a reformed listaholic, I’m happy to report that I no longer feel the urge to create list after list. I do make one on the rare occasions I go shopping, but that’s just to keep myself from overspending. Otherwise, I’m an obsessed list lover no more**.

*Whether you decide to store your ideas in the same notebook, like I do, or maintain a separate one for them, The Sketchnote Handbook might help you take notes better. I’m planning to order a copy for myself.

**The lists above are just to show you a sample of my former list-making madness. I haven’t reverted to the other side.

Start your own Undustrial Revolution


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