Another Month, Another List

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I have a love/hate relationship with lists.

At the beginning of every month, I get out my well-worn planner and write two lists down in red pen: Accomplishments and Goals. The notes can range from personal things (like, see more of the city) to academic things (make sure to get homework done in advance) to just practical things (make sure to buy groceries every week). I have completed this "tradition" since the end of last school year - and, so far, it has been pretty profitable.
It seems like just another to-do list, of which I make many over the course of just one day, but this one is slightly different. I rarely look back at these goals over the course of the month. I forget most of them in a few days. But, for some reason, I find myself at the end of the month having completed most - if not all - of the goals and then some. Somewhere in my subconscious, those goals are lurking around, predicating what I do with my time.

So, that's the good part about making lists. They can really program your brain to think linearly, to make things happen, to finish things off. But there are some things about making lists that also make me feel insane.
Have you ever made a list and felt that it was controlling your life? That it was going to judge you for not finishing it? These ideas sound absurd, but when you become a chronic list-maker like I am, it's hard to get away.

On the weekends, I will still make lists of what I need to do. Deviation from this list feels like breaking out from a padded cell - I spend some time lazing around on Low steps or walking through the city, and I feel both reckless and nervous. What if I don't get everything done on time? What if I don't finish the list?
I feel like I'm drowning in work and even my own free time activities feel like another burden to be ticked off. On top of that, it reduces my personal spontaneity and creativity.

So, what is there to do? Shall I be chained to my to-do list, never getting time to sleep in or wander the city without guilt? The predictable answer is 'no.'
I'm still learning as I go, but refraining from obsessive list making is the first step. Making a list only for specific things (homework, say, but not free time activities). And I have to make sure that I find a new down-time past time - yes, I make lists every time I am bored, even if they are repeats. Lists can never fully disappear from my life, but they don't need to take it over either.