the lure of the list

Lists.  Obligations. Hobbies. Bucket List.

Do you really need them?  Are they helping you move forward in your life?  Helping you to achieve your goals and dreams?  Or are they holding you back; weighing you down with things that you must do.


The To Do List.  Almost every organisational book, every guide to planning is an instruction manual for the to do list in one incarnation or another.  Don’t get me wrong,  I have a to do list, I even have a book that I write my to do lists in.  I could probably write one of those instruction manuals.  But sometimes that list is a killer.  Just looking at it makes me want to fire up the laptop and play candy crush saga for the rest of the day.

Are there things on that list because you think they ought to be on there but you know you are never going to do, at least not today.  Things like dust the top of the wardrobe, write to your great aunt.  They sit there and stare at you and make you feel guilty.

If you are not going to do them don’t put them on the list.  Declutter it.

If you are going to do it one day but not today have a second list, I call mine the 25 hours in a day list.  The things that I have to do at some point but not right now.  That list gets decluttered once a month.  If I haven’t done it in a month I am not going to do it.

Obligations.  How many do you have.  Are they real obligations or have you convinced yourself that they are?  There are somethings you have said you will do so you must.  But what are you saying yes to and why?  Out of a sense of duty, love, reciprocation.  They are all valid reasons but you should balance them out.  If every obligation is out of a sense of duty you will start to resent them.  My obligations include a fundraising charity I currently chair.  I do that out of love and fun.  I really enjoy it, I share the work with friends and though it can be stressful and hard work the payoff is well worth it.  I also run our church Sunday School.  Initially that was out of duty.  My children made up a sizeable proportion of the Sunday School.  It only seemed fair that I contributed.  My children have long grown out of Sunday School but I still do it, partly out of duty (I think every church should have a Sunday School) and partly love .  Another is the Durham Local Food Network.  I helped set up both the Network and the subsequent Directory out of frustration!

Hobbies.  Oh these are real time sucks and clutter generators.  Whether you fish, knit, make paper airplanes or nurture bonsai trees will have kit.  Lots of kit.  Because you have the kit you will begin to feel obligated to use it.  Cast your mind back to when you first discovered your hobby.  When you had no kit.  When you went fishing with one 15ft salmon rod, one reel and a small box of flies.  You were ready to go in seconds and you went out a lot.  Now a fishing trip requires almost an entire day to sort out the best rod and reels.  The right flies for the water, the right waders and net and then the right bag to put it all in.  How often do you go fishing now?

Bucket List. I am all for having a list of things that you would like to do before you die.  But unless you are genuinely terminally ill are you using your bucket list to avoid living your real life.  Are you too busy accumulating experiences to experience the everyday?

Lists are a tool designed to help us.  Yet it is all too easy to allow them to become clutter themselves.  Filling our lives with things we do or feel we need to do but don’t.  Don’t be lured by the appeal of the list.  Make sure you stay in control and not the other way around.

18 thoughts on “the lure of the list

  1. I hate lists, because I keep forgetting things on them. Instead, I try to have one or two priorities. It is all about doing a little bit, but doing it well, isn’t it? Anyway, I have yet to find the perfect way of doing everything.

    1. Absolutely. I have also stopped multitasking and only do one job at a time. Concentrate on doing it well. I find I am far more productive now!

  2. Great post! To eliminate the guilt . . . I pull one or two items off any of my multiple lists (and I do have many) and schedule them into my calendar. Then, the lists are “out-of-site-out-of-mind” leaving me free to focus my energy on that days priorities. I update and reprioritize my lists weekly.

  3. I’m still working on my getting things done process. Going to check out that uncalendar. I don’t have a schedule that fits into a regular planner, so I’m always on the lookout for new ideas.

  4. I found your blog via your comment on MY blog. I can so relate to the list issue. I need to make more lists but I need a balance because lists can make me do exactly what you are describing and when I don’t accomplish them I feel like a failure. And I wrote a post about Bucket Lists too! My conclusion was they are great but the thought of them keeps me from living fully because I am so focused on the list I forget to embrace where I AM in life instead of where I am not. Great post!

  5. Wonderful things to think about. I’m not a daily list maker, but I do have a bucket list and it has served me well. Loved your posts on de-cluttering!!

  6. I love lists as you’ll have seen from my blog. I love making them and crossing them off and in my hectic household it helps make sure everyone has what they need are where they need to be etc etc etc. I find great satisfaction in ticking things off and in seeing a fully crossed off list, there is a great sense of accomplishment to it but I also don’t like to be restricted by them and so categories on a list work better for me lol

  7. I am list free and love it! I am so much more focused and able to work on very meaningful projects.

    Occasionally, I will write out a little plan of what I am working on, at that moment, when my mind is racing and my fingers can’t keep up, but it is only ever temporary, and I fill in that plan with what I am doing.

    I am also goal free too. I love it!

      1. No that’s abosolutely right. I tend to put them on the 25 hours in a day list. If they are still there 4 weeks later then they get ditched. I only look at that list once a wee, so it doesn’t stress me.

  8. I practice selective listing. Matt and I make a list each night of what we want to do the next day from the ordinary household runnings like “laundry” or “bake bread” to the irregular and fun “got to a rock concert” or “dinner with the in-laws.” We also write down anything that we accomplished that never made it on the list. I sure like that 25 Hours in a Day List though. I shall have to try that. I am at a loss for where to put those things as I refuse to put them on my daily to do list knowing I will not do them that particular day.

    1. the only problem with that list is that as there are not 25 hours in a day some of them just don’t get done. I work on the basis that if they haven’t made it onto the main list they weren’t worth doing in the first place!

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