I like lists. They’re my comfort zone. I like checking the box, marking through the words, finishing a task and clearly stating the thing. Whatever a list is for, I like it. They’re also a crutch for me and they get in my way.
I still use to-do lists. I find that if I don’t I’m not as motivated or I forget. Since I’m a performance-oriented human, I dearly love to cross an item off my to-do list. I knocked out my entire list today and you’d think I’d found buried treasure. If I make a list of the things I want to get done in a specific amount of time (I’ve finally accepted I only write lists for that day and only write what I can reasonably accomplish that day), there’s some measure of sense to it. Do I have a work deadline? Meet the deadline. Do I need to wash clothes? Do that. Oh, haven’t made Grandma’s Christmas stocking yet, I’ll get that done tonight. If I have trouble fitting in yoga I write it down too. I even wrote down to bring my trees in the house (potted citrus and avocados that do not like the cold) to make sure I didn’t forget to do that today.
But lists are by their nature limited and exclusive. What happens when it’s not on the list? My favorite tool becomes a trap of sorts. Let me illustrate.
How many times have you heard a girl say she has a list of things she’s looking for in a guy, and the first thing on the list is that he’s tall? What the hell does that have to do with anything? The average height for an American male is approximately 5′-10″, and they declined to provide me with the standard deviation, but I’m guessing there is a lot less above 6′-0″ and a lot more below 5′-10″. And I’m not sure why it matters, because that’s something most people can’t do anything about. What else is on your list?
More importantly, what isn’t on your list?
When I was in design school I was the last year before design tools turned over from manual to digital. The process of design, which is limited by one’s ability to manipulate the communication tool used, became very limited by the steep software learning curve. The class two years after us couldn’t design a roof to save their lives because the software didn’t automatically draw a roof for the buildings they designed, and they usually left roofs till last, meaning they put no time into them. Their designs were shit, not because they lacked ability but because they were relying on a tool that excluded so much. Those lists of mine? They exclude too. They almost always exclude me time, things that bring me joy, spending time with people I like, things that will improve my well being and things that will help me be much happier as I knock out all of the things on the list.
I don’t usually do New Year’s resolutions, but I might need to reconsider how I make lists and why I do it in the first place, and the timing is working out to make that change in the new year. And no, I’m not putting that on a list.