The Taming of Lists

With the help from a few friends, I present to you an informal poll on how mothers feel about lists.  Participants were asked to speak the first word that came to mind when they hear the word “list”.  The responses:

  • tyrannical
  • insulting
  • essential
  • stress
  • organization

I perhaps need not point out to you that a majority of the respondents had a negative association with lists. Not, of course, that any respondent considered living without them.  Although one does sometimes try, to her inevitable detriment.

So… what’s a mother to do?  I have a couple of ideas.  The first is, you could try ditching your list and focusing on accomplishing just One Thing.  This is what this Zen Habits blog post suggests:  focus on just one thing, and get that puppy done.  I think this could work even for multi-tasking mothers, who could have a supplemental list for survival.  But I love the idea of waking up in the morning with one meaningful thing you’d like to accomplish and actually do it.  Then the rest of the day, which undoubtedly crosses other items off that list, feels just extra-productive.

The second option, also a favourite, is the Reverse List.  When the day feels out of hand, and you’re kind of running yourself into a loop by responding to lots of people’s basic needs, take a breather and a crisp piece of blank paper, and make a list of what you’re doing.  Forget your list for a moment; you’re not getting to it anyway.  But write down what you are doing, to demonstrate to yourself that you are, in fact, doing something.  This avoids the risk of reflecting back on the day and being unable to identify what you’ve done, and can give you enough pluck to make the best of what time you do have left.

Because who’s the boss?  You or the list?  You!


2 thoughts on “The Taming of Lists

  1. My version of the Reverse List is to write out what I have already done. It makes me feel (or even realize??) that I’m more productive than I usually think I am, and it’s extremely satisfying to tick off all the things on the to-do list so rapidly!

  2. Interesting results from the survey. I wouldn’t think people hated them so much!
    I am a list lover. Couldn’t live without my to-do list. Sometimes it does stress me out, though, because it is never ending.
    On the other hand, I have come to the conclusion that if I pray as soon as I wake up and imagine who I want to *be* before I get out of bed I don’t worry so much about what on the list isn’t getting done during the day.
    Every day I remind myself that I want to be a faithful child of God, a joyful mother and a loving wife. The reminder puts the craziness of a screaming baby, whining toddler and never-ending to-do list in perspective.
    Thanks for the great post!

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