Monday, February 11, 2008

To Do List or Not To Do List?

After much debate and poring over long lists of names (see the comments on my previous post), our puppy finally has a name:  Hazel. While naming by committee is a bad plan (think Enron), Hazel was the one name nobody hated. During the course of this naming ordeal, it became evident that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who make lists and those who don't.

As a non-list maker, I find them distracting. Every time I have tried to use a listing tool — be it a "to-do" list, a packing list or even a shopping list — I  get bogged down in the process. I like my lists to be perfect, neatly typed in a legible font, alphabetized, of course. Maybe I just never found the right system.

List making reached its zenith during the "Day-Timer" years. Listers bought expensive, leather-bound notebooks with specialized pages for everything from appointments and phone numbers to plans for the afterlife. People said ridiculous things like:  "I'm lost without my 'Filo-Fax'" or "Oh, my God, I forgot my 'Day Runner!'"  To be perfectly frank, I don't think most people are that much in demand.

The cult of list making is huge, with entire industries devoted to it, and some people are very particular about which tools they choose. I have one friend who special orders colorful little pads with shiny covers that fold over and tuck in, like a matchbook. She gets them by the gross, but gives away the green ones because they offend her aesthetic sensibilities. Then you have your scribblers who make their lists on anything handy — used envelopes, paper napkins, their hands. These folks usually end up with wads of paper littering their purses, pockets and cars.

These days, list making has gone high tech with Palm Pilots, BlackBerrys and other handhelds, not to mention Bluetooth connections for wireless synching. These gadgets have their own secret shorthand and magic pens that write right on the screen. It's a miracle of modern list-making science.

In stressful situations (like naming the dog), I do occasionally succumb to the lure of the list.  Somehow, it just seems to add to my stress, as I usually forget it, lose it, or spend 20 minutes trying to remember that one last thing. I don't even like crossing things off my list (too messy).

True list makers, on the other hand, take great satisfaction in the checking off process.  I have one friend who actually talks to her list:  "Aha, I got you," she says, wielding her pen like Zorro's sword.  "I crossed off everything on my list today," she'll gloat on a particularly productive day. Or she'll lament: "I did nothing on my list today," as if it will somehow chastise her in the morning.

Long ago, BC (before children), I worked for Arthur Andersen. During orientation, we spent two entire days learning how to make to-do lists the "Uncle Arthur" way. Two days! Team leaders reviewed our lists every afternoon. I usually just made stuff up. Even back then, I knew there was something fishy about the Arthur way of doing things.

These days, with a family of six, I find I have had to make one concession to the list: my refrigerator calendar (see it in all it's glory in the right-hand side bar). It's a huge month-by-month magnetic eyesore, where each person is represented by a different color, with separate colors for school, the house and the dog (Hazel!). Everything goes on the calendar. There's just one little problem: my husband. Though a self-confessed Palm addict and a veteran list maker, he completely ignores my system. He picks any color, willy-nilly, and never even bothers to enter his appointments on the calendar. I've heard in some states this is grounds for divorce.

So, I guess it's true. Despite years of rebellion, I have finally become one of them: a lister.  Uncle Arthur would be so proud.

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Anonymous said...

Very nice, Mama. Yes, well I don't know what we'd do without said calender.

Yes, I do like the name Hazel. Who is curerntly eating my Algebra 2 book.

Cindy Fey said...

What a cute puppy! Hazel is a sweet name, too, but I can't believe you ruled out Thurber - that is inspired.

Anonymous said...

That is why writing on your hand in bright purple ink is an effective project finishing device. There is one project that you are going to finish AND YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN!!!!!!

tom shubnell said...

Regarding Lists. I found so many interesting books on Amazon dealing with lists that I put one together myself. "Number One Book of Wacky Lists" The interesting thing is that it sells. From the feedback, it seems people like reading lists as much as they enjoy putting them together.