The Art of the List

lists

Lists make me happy.

An article I read recently actually puts science behind the fact that lists can calm anxiety and bolster creativity.  For me, that’s just the icing on and already delicious cake.

What is it about writing out words on a note pad that is so magical?  I think it’s an OCD organizational thing.  If I feel like my life is getting out of control or becoming too chaotic, writing out tasks gives me some clarity.  By bringing some order to what needs to get done I can see that in reality my life is not quite so crazy as I think it is.

list of lists

Besides would late night tv be without David Letterman’s Top Ten List?  Even Shakespeare references lists in Hamlet.  The Bard refers to “a list of landlesse resolutes” in Act 1 Scene 1.

So what does it take to make a good list?  Well for starters you never have just one list.  On any given day you will find multiple lists in my kitchen.

  • Master To Do List
  • Thing To Do That Day ie: Wednesday
  • Groceries
  • Ideas or Posts to Work On

But it’s not that simple.  There is, I believe, an art to it.

You must have the appropriate piece of paper.

Sure, the right size is important, but so is the layout and look.  You wouldn’t put your Master To Do list on a tiny pad of paper with some realtors face on it.  But a quick shopping list?  Totally okay.  It has been suggested to me that I use my smart phone to record my lists.  It just doesn’t sit right with me.  I’m not sure if it’s an old school things or a tactile thing.  Regardless, the right tool for the job is always key.

blank page

Lists need to be about timing.

Now obviously making a Christmas card list in March is a bit of overkill.  Although, now that I’m saying it, it does make perfect sense.  What I am saying, is that one of the purposes of a list it to save time.  So make it work for you.  Writing out your grocery list in the order that you walk the aisles at the grocery store is a huge time saver.  If you have half a dozen errands to do not only will your list remind you what needs to get down but it can serve as a map for your route.

Tasks on your lists need to be realistic.

If you make a list of things to do that are unattainable, the list can’t serve it purpose.  It will only serve to frustrate you when you are unable to complete them.  There’s definitely a sense of accomplishment that comes with crossing things off of a list.  Even if you are just crossing it off because you have decided that it belongs on a different list.  Ya, that counts.  Bottom line?  World Peace shouldn’t necessarily  be on your list.

It’s really not rocket science, but lists can make you feel like a super hero. Everyone admires somebody who can keep things on track and get stuff done.  Don’t they?

The Best Thing in Life is a really good list.

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Addicted to Organization

Or~gan~ized                                                                                                                                           efficient: working in a systematic and efficient way                                                                      large-scale: existing on a large scale and involving the systematic coordination of many different considerations

Hello my name is Susan and I’m addicted to being organized. I love to be organized. I love things in neat piles, or even better, put away in their proper place. Oh, and even better, in a box with a label on it. I love planning and making sure that all the bases are covered. Let’s face it, schedules and lists turn me on. I think I get it for my dad. My mom wouldn’t have called it it organized though. She would have called it fastidious. If there was a nail out of place on his workbench somebody was going to hear about it. Sounds vaguely familiar to me and my family would second that.

boxes

There are thousands of websites and blogs devoted to organization. People make a fortune from helping other people get organized. When I was first thinking about quiting my job and wondered what I would do, a dear friend of mine suggested that I help other people get organized. She was so impressed with how organized I was with passing on my daughters clothes to her, that she thought maybe that was my calling. I did give it some serious consideration. My only problem was that I couldn’t see other people paying me for doing it my way; and make no mistake, it would be done MY way or it would be wrong. Organization can be deeply personal.

What does this say about me? Some may say that a disorganized home indicates that the person has better things to do with their time than tidy up. That may be true for some. I know that when my life (and in turn my family’s) is organized that I feel calmer. When things are all over and untidy and well, unorganized, I feel a bit panicky. It’s probably not a very healthy or sane thing that I can’t focus on a task well until the house is in order and relatively clean. I’m sure some psychiatrist somewhere would make a case out of that and that’s okay. Everybody has their thing. I’m not like OCD organized (well maybe just a little) but I have to admit I get a teeny bit antsy when things are really out of hand in the house.

In many cases my need to organize stems from my other pastime. Procrastination. There is no better way to avoid a difficult task than to immerse yourself in cleaning out a closet. It occupies your mind so you don’t feel guilty about the fact that you should be doing something else. Plus, if you take long enough to do it then you just won’t have time to do that other horrible thing. Whatever it may be. In my mind, if the house is organized then it’s easier to find things. My husband would argue with this. “Yes, you can find it. But can anybody else?” True, I do tend to put things away and then forget where I’ve put them and forget to tell anybody else resulting in momentary panic when we need my daughters field hockey stick for the first night of practice.

Organization isn’t just about being neat and tidy though. It’s about thinking ahead and knowing where and when things need to get done. If I want my daughter to get into the swimming class that fits into our schedule then I need to know what day registration starts and it needs to be on the list so that I remember. Hear that? It’s called rationalization. And yes, lists are a big part of being organized. I wonder how many times I used the word organized in this post? Did I mention that I like lists?

Some say that an organized life means an organized mind. I don’t agreed. For all my love of organization my mind is often very messy. Thoughts running in and out, switching gears every two minutes, jumping from shopping list to vacation planning to blog writing without missing a beat. I’ve discovered that each week when I go through the process of writing a post for this blog, my mind is very scattered. Thoughts come out all over the place. Each posts starts as half a dozen random thoughts. Eventually those thoughts turn into paragraphs and in turn those paragraphs find their way into a coherent piece. It a process I’m not very comfortable with because….well, it’s not organized.

So how does this fit into my goals of finding my thing?  To be honest I didn’t know when I started writing this post, but now I think I see it. There have been times when I have thought that being organized was a bit of a detriment. (Perhaps re-read the above if you don’t see that.) I have thought that maybe I should just let things go a bit and relax. But now I realize that my little quirk has actually helped me along the way by giving me a focus. This week, the Best Thing in Life is realizing you have a problem and embracing it.