Saturday, February 16, 2013

To-do Lists

I live a simple life mostly.  My life is not driven by a day planner or an app.  Some days are so easy I can even remember what to do without a list.  Eat breakfast, exercise, work, cook dinner, relax . . . repeat.   But between the complexities and distractions of life and my menopausal brain, I often cannot function without a To-Do list.  A plain old white tablet with an ordinary pen does the job.  The tasks of the day are scribbled in my barely legible handwriting and crossed or checked off as I work my way through the day.   

I make lists for mundane things: weekly menus, grocery shopping lists, and things to remember like when and where to pick up my son each day (Friday was Writing Club at 5:30 pm at Spotsylvania High School).  I don’t like to use the computer to make my lists – too much screen time.  But I do use code for some items on my lists (for years, “personal items” referred to tampons).

to do list

I make lists for creative things:  ideas for my blog, questions to ask my photo guru (the current list for Lightroom questions is pages long), pictures I want to take (affectionately called my “shot list”), and favorite quotes and passages from people and books that inspire me.  I have a list for wishes and dreams, things I hope I get to do like going to a Creative Joy Retreat or Shutter Sisters Camp or taking a cruise with my husband.

And some of my lists are goals for behaviors I wish to change – ways to improve.
  • Make water my drink of choice.
  • Do what I really want to do.
  • Just say No.
  • Be in bed by Nine one night a week.
  • Never leave home without a snack. 
Lists don’t care if I am not perfect.  They don’t chastise me for my messy handwriting.  They don’t taunt me if I don’t finish everything, or even get started.  They wait patiently until I am ready to begin. They remind me to be grateful and help me to live in ways that are healthier and more balanced.  Sometimes I write things on my husband’s list.  Usually these are things I don’t want to do and am extremely grateful that he will do them for me.  Sometimes I write down on the list something I have already done, and then cross it off.  I love the feeling of accomplishment.

My all-time favorite list is one that says Do Nothing.  A day or two a month to do nothing gives me perspective and peace and refreshes my creativity.  Doing nothing brings clarity to my work.

bulletin board of list paper

I don’t typically save old lists, but I do have one very special list.  It’s probably more accurately described as a report card.  My father, who has passed on, took care of my oldest son, Zach when he was just a little boy.  He would make a short list of daily activities and rate Zach’s behavior.  This note, written in my father’s own hand, makes me smile.  I am sure Zach was a handful as there is a category for “changes report” which clearly shows my son knew when he wasn’t behaving well and was already smart enough to try to edge his way out of trouble by changing his rating number. 

Daddy's list

Sasha Cagen, list-making guru, publishes lists in their original form on the To-do list blog.  As Sasha puts it, “Lists have been my default response to sadness and confusion, a dependable way to get new inspiration and regain control. Just sitting down with a piece of empty paper and a pen makes me feel better.”  Lists can be poetry, a free life coach, a mini diary.  They can help you find happiness and make dreams come true.  According to Sasha’s survey of list makers, 96% say their lives are better with To-do lists. 

Finally, something I do naturally that is good for me.  Love lists.

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