My life without lists is unimaginable. I don’t know how I’d operate without them. Some of my lists are ongoing. Others spring up whenever there’s a new need, or simply because I feel like making a catalogue or a record. Mostly my lists are about the future. Occasionally, they’re open-ended records.
My lists have been quite furtive, a slight embarrassment, really. In my life, anything can be an excuse for a list. The truth is that I really love writing and using them. If I’m not making lists it’s because I’m miserable or unwell. Or perhaps it’s the other way around: when I’m not making lists, I become miserable…
Recently, two things helped me focus on the idea of lists. The first was that someone who read my new manuscript said they’d been struck by the number of lists it contains. A global search showed far too many semi-colons (the device I use without thinking for separating items in writing). I rewrote the offending passages immediately.
Second, a number of ‘pins’ have appeared on the social media platform Pinterest These have been lists about ways to be creative, or more creative. These pins about creativity all seem to include making lists.
I’ve decided to come clean about my own list-making.
List-making is a family habit. My father, a cardboard box maker by trade and a dreamer by inclination, always made lists. He took his list-making so seriously that he even cut special cards exactly the right shape to fit into his shirt pockets. His cards were white, with a lovely writing surface. Now my brother, Peter Stone, keeps me supplied with similar cards cut exactly to my specifications.
Peter (of The Big Picture Factory, a useful resource for artists, writers and other creative people) is one of the most original thinkers I know. He makes lists. So does our sister, Elizabeth Worts, owner of Dowerin Bed and Breakfast in the Eastern Wheat Belt of Western Australia. You can see the blog I posted about Elizabeth here.
A list can serve many functions, besides being an organising tool
Here are a few of the things lists can do:
- Spark creativity
- Generate ideas for current and future projects
- Provide a sense of control and mastery
- Organise and contain inner chaos
- Help select and prioritise tasks
- Show the steps to achieve a goal
- Set the stage for commitment and action
- Show what is important and what is trivial
- Help manage overwhelming task-loads
- Improve efficiency
- Record and rank achievement
- Identify needs
- Identify gaps
- Be fun.
Lists can be strictly utilitarian, like the one on the refrigerator door with the groceries that need to be replaced or a list of things to do before the holidays.
But others are more personal and creative, like the ‘to-do’ list I write every Saturday morning in my journal as a reminder of what I’m looking forward to, what I hope to achieve and the things I must do during the following week. I use colours to highlight the different categories of activities. In the back of my journal, I have a list of short-term goals.
My ‘birthday list’ – a record in a pretty notebook that goes back perhaps fifteen years – is a review of what I’ve done as well as a substantial catalogue of what I hope to achieve in the following year.
As well as these, there are at least thirty-two other current lists on my computer, in notebooks or on cards. They include things I’m grateful for and the oceans I’ve paddled my feet in. No wonder I’m embarrassed about my list-making. Obviously, keeping that many lists up to date can be time-consuming but there’s always room for more.
I’d like to start some new ones along these lines:
- New ideas to ponder
- Things to do before I’m too old
- Things to learn
- Things I want to know how to do
- Things I should change
- My favourite things
Thank you again for visiting my post. I’d be fascinated to hear about the lists other people make in comments .