Wednesday, June 5, 2013


And that title of “Listing” doesn’t mean that I’m walking tilted to one side now that I’m a little older! It
indicates the activity of someone who is an inveterate listmaker, a person that others often call “obsessive-compulsive.” However, I’m in good company because such notables as Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, Roget of Roger’s Thesaurus fame, and Benjamin Franklin (who heads the list of listmakers) listed daily. Of course, Franklin often fell behind in his task of checking off items on his various to-do lists, so much so that he had to create another maxim: “Perform without fail what you resolve.” Actually, some writers on the subject of listmakers contend that the author of Genesis was a model lister who wrote a list of what was done in a week’s time at the time of the Creation.
I begin my day by making, or looking at a list I prepared the night before. The list is only long enough to cover one sticky note that is posted in the kitchen, but during the day I mark out, crumple up, and remake at least two more post-it lists, each one with the name, time, and place of the tasks, and a huge, dark check mark that obliterates the mention of the task before I throw the list away. In other words, I make plans on sticky notes and tell myself that I am taking control of my daily tasks. And if I don’t accomplish that control, it isn’t because I didn’t make a good list.
The truth is that most listmakers create lists because they help them remember things. Lists also bring a little order into an otherwise chaotic day. They relieve tension and help us focus on the more meaningful work we plan to do after we have listed the “to do’s.” Lists are actual records of our ability to organize. Of course, some listmakers merely make lists and don’t follow them or do the corresponding action needed. If you’re a procrastinator, making a list doesn’t help because you never get around to the stage of checking off any items. And procrastinators usually don’t feel hopeless enough about their non-completions to get motivated. To them, “to do” is ta dum or ho hum.  
I’ve a notion that listmaking is almost an inherited behavior – or maybe it’s a habit learned from “snooping,” which I guess could be another useful activity. I say this because when my children or grandchildren enter my second home in New Iberia, Louisiana, they surreptitiously glance at the yellow post-it on my kitchen counter and somehow manage to read the entire document with a practiced sidelong look. This, of course, leads to the initiation of conversation – questions like “Why do you have to remind yourself to clean the bathtub at 10 a.m.?” Or “Don’t you know when your toenails need cutting? I mean, really, Mama, do you have to write down the day and hour of such things?” Then, they go home and make a list! My oldest grandson makes extensive lists in perfect draftsman’s print, and his lists are infinite in length, surpassing my messy, short post-its. His lists are perfectly printed to begin with and are on longer sheets of paper, so he doesn’t have to buy as many post-its monthly as I do.
I read another article about a serious adviser of listing called The One Planet Education Network, or OPEN, a global online education content provider that promotes listmaking. OPEN advocates that lists simply help us remember what we’ve accomplished and what we need to accomplish.
The one list that I’ve avoided making is the “bucket list,” a list of things I want to do before I die because then I’d have to list the time and place of these things as if the grim reaper were just around the corner, and I don’t want to be prodded into that urgency!
A word of advice about listmaking: just don’t try to do too much at once – like Ben Franklin who had to write more and more maxims to take care of his unaccomplished lists: “Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.” Or in the words of Ecclesiastes: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…”

And, by the way, there’s an actual Listmakers Anonymous for those who feel invalidated because they’re dubbed “obsessive-compulsive” characters and list daily.  

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