To-Do lists are the life-savers of our generation, they promise us the world and more. But what’s the real story?
I love lists. I write lists and lists, and lists of lists, and sometimes master lists. In short, if you cut me open, there’s a good chance an earthquake of lists would come tumbling out of my inanimate body and cause unprecedented havoc in this world of ours. I am their greatest fan.
Lists can bring you increased focus; the satisfaction of crossing things off (not to be underestimated); a clear set of objectives; knowing what you have to do; and the smugness that comes with that knowledge. Perhaps the most important gain of all is the legitimacy with which you can allow yourself to grip a clipboard now that there’s a To-Do list firmly attached to it. If that doesn’t mean business, I don’t know what does.
So what is my verdict? Lists are beautiful. Lists are useful, while being so simple you’ll be kicking yourself thinking “why didn’t I think of this before?”. But that’s where it gets tricky. Because you did. You did think of this before. And you know what happened? You lost the list.
Lists are great, when you have them right in your line of vision. But what happens if you lose your master list? What happens if you get used to seeing it so often that it just becomes a blurr to you, like that motivational poster you stopped reading because it was on a wall you glanced at every day? What if (now it gets worse) you write so many lists that even the thought of lists brings to mind an endless stack of papers on a desk full of books, and you are unable to locate which list and for what purpose?
Lists, like any drug, must be taken with extreme caution. Limit your list output, and be very careful that if you do go down that route (which as I have previously expressed, is a perfectly wonderful route to take), you are prepared for the battle that will ensue. And please, please, don’t overestimate the power of the To-Do List.
Since by now it’s become clear that I need as much help as you do, I’d like to ask you something. What do you do to keep track of tasks? How do you organise yourself? Have you previously found yourself drowning in a sea of lists, or have you mastered the master?