Where did it all begin? The need for me to have a piece of paper, card, old receipt or even the back of a cut up cereal packet to write some reminders on. Lists are a part of my daily life and when I say list, it has to be a physical one – technology is great for creating a “to do” or “checklist” when there is nothing to hand but it is just not the same for me as using pencil on paper or card. Of course the preference is pencil, only an amateur Lister would use pen surely!!
Early List Role Models
The cereal packet idea I seem to remember came from my Grandma Ann. In the days when you shopped every day, she would have little rectangles cut up ready to make her list of reminders of what she needed. My parents adopted the same strategy but I think they moved it up a gear by adding a bulldog clip to the list-ready paper and card. Radical!
With hindsight, this is recycling at it’s best. Many a time I would endure the taunts of colleagues when I too guillotined the never ending supply of photocopying paper that was discarded because the wrong thing had been printed, the printer jammed or too many copies had been produced. Naturally I would add a bulldog clip and keep it by the phone for the endless phone messages that arrived, to just to doodle on in meetings and as an emergency coaster. Whats not to like?
Why Do I Need a List?
I can’t use the excuse that I love stationery because I can’t carry this with me and some of the lists aren’t in the least neat or pretty. Or maybe I have a poor memory and limited attention span? Having given it some thought, I made a list and these are the best reasons to justify my weakness:
- Planning my time and gives me structure. As I write them I think about the day/week ahead and that gives me pleasure.
- Writing items down frees up the need to remember them and somehow makes me think that I am part way to achieving whatever it is (because it is on the list – what would an analyst make of this?)
- Keeps me focused. I do have a tendency to go off on a tangent…….what was that ball of wool I had in a draw somewhere? See what I mean?
- I am more likely to stick to it if it is on my list.
- If I am mildly concerned about something the process of writing something down lessens the concern (offloading I suppose)
- I feel decidedly smug if I can erase/cross something off a list.
- Give me a highlighter (or two) and the list takes on a whole new life form.
For us, in these strange times of not being able to plan at all, you may wonder why I would need a list but I still seem able to churn them out. Examples of this are:
- the weekly food shopping list
- the weekly menu list (this one falls into list hoarding so I can check back on what we haven’t had for a while)
- the “What I need to research” list (such as gifts, travel locations)
- the “Refunds Outstanding” list (long)
- my daily “To do” list
- my “Who to is due a letter/phone call reminder” list
- my “Programmes I have missed on the radio or TV and want to catch up on” list (big title but small list)
- my “Things to buy” list (not desperate enough to order on line but what I need when we do decide to venture to those now open shops)
- my “In and Out of Storage Cupboard” list
Jonno is totally the opposite. He is adamant he doesn’t need a list to remind him of anything – although I have been know to list by proxy for him (sad but true). He falls into the category of hating seeing what he has/wants to do as it changes it into a chore. I am not sure if it counts but I do remember him having about 6 sheets of flipchart paper stuck on the wall with bullet pointed items of our plans. If asked he would deny it being a list I’m sure. Brainstorming? Large planning? Anything by admitting to being a list.
True enough, some of my lists in my working life and whilst we were preparing to travel were so long it could look totally overwhelming so once I was given a very good piece of advice, I just wish I could remember who said it. The advice was not to have a “to do” list but have a “today” list. Wise words indeed.
Finally, no matter how retro they feel, this style of writing is still responsible for driving huge amounts of traffic to websites so it must suit the fast pace of information hungry readers and followers. Unfortunately I don’t think my family tradition will span another generation, the closest I have got is giving the gift of a board game called Listography which involves making matching or non matching lists with other players on various topics. Everyone loved it.
However, I am not going to give up without a fight over the hereditary use of a paper based list so blank lists is on the list of home made gifts, on the family sub-section list of the Christmas presents list for 2020. (Note to family and friends: Don’t panic that was a joke).