Living by the List

 

I live by lists. Or, rather, I do now.

I came to lists later in life. Lists imposed order on the chaos of my life- on the deluge of commitments and appointments that often left me drowning and gasping for air. So many things were carried away on the currents of life that I found myself overwhelmed, over-committed and sadly, under-performing in many areas of my life.

And then- somewhere along the way- I discovered the magic of the list and now my life is ruled by its rhythms and routines.

As a person who once chafed against the constraints of schedules, worried that they would quash my creativity, I now embrace the list and the order it brings. I have learned to channel my creativity through the list and I am happier and calmer for it. My work is also better.

Now, my morning begins with a meditation and moves into lists.

With my morning coffee, I organize my day (and my thoughts and my life.)

I engage myself in a visualization of my day- where will I go, when and in what order. And as I mentally walk myself through the day, I write down the steps.

My list includes things like “shower,” “eat breakfast” and “call mom”- because you need victories in a day. There is a joy to crossing things off the list and it gives me a little momentum.

Not all the things on my list are easy to do. Sometimes my lists include blogging, client appointments, grading, lecture preparation and housework. On other days my lists include organizing, presenting, networking, and caring for my children. My lists can be subdivided into smaller lists (grade 6 papers, review readings for first half of lecture, promote blog, email son’s teacher, attend coaching conference, read LinkedIn posts, review math facts with daughter). And each task on my list may itself be subdivided when I sit down to do it.

My lists shrink and grow throughout the day as I cross items off and add them on as they come to me.

My lists are connected to yesterday and to tomorrow, with unfinished items carrying over, insisting on being finished and remembered despite the limits of a 24 hour day.

I externalize my memory onto a pad of paper because my own memory seldom can carry all of the things I need it to. My house is littered with notebooks filled with lists. They are the record of my days, weeks, months and years*- of a life full of tasks, accomplishments and meaning.

* Note to self- add throwing away old lists to the to do list.

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