posted by Doranna

I've been a listmaker since before I knew what listmaking was. Even as a child, I had a tiny little pocket notebook, and on it I made my endless notations in exacting Lilliputian print (hey, a kid's gotta do something during those endless homeroom announcements). You'd think a youngster just wouldn't have that much to stick on a list, but mine was never lacking for items.

Over the years the lists have varied in form--experimentation with new organizers, new papers, new arrangements. (Never a PDA or on the computer. Ever. Blasphemy!) Pen or pencil, placement in the office, detail level...it all shifts around, and I've learned to allow for that. For several months, everything and anything will make it onto tight little lists, sometimes even organized ahead for days. Then suddenly I'll just be scrawling sloppy notes, adding things to the bottom of an endless list as I cross things out hither and yon. Whatever...just as with the writing routine, I go for the choice that seems right for the moment.

People have long discouraged my lists. My parents made note that the more stressed I was, the longer I'd make my lists. No doubt my mom thought she was right to worry when she found me hunched over my wee notepad making endless tiny notations about every little thing to be done; she certainly tried to discourage the list making, pointing out that I was just stressing myself by adding unnecessary items, things that weren't truly a crucial priority.

But finally, I've read someone about someone who understands--who celebrates the obsessive list. I hadn't really thought it through before, but when I saw him put it into words--that half the stress of what you've got to do is trying to keep it all in your head--I wanted to leap through the pages and hug him. Yes! I am not alone! For some of us, the very act of writing things down frees our mind from having to keep track of that particular detail, without worrying it'll be forgotten. David Allen, organizational guru, understands that when I'm stressed, my lists get longer because I'm trying to relieve that stress, not because I'm adding unnecessary work to the pile.

Of course, the problem comes when I've got so much going on that I get up the next day, dive into work, and forget to look at the list until it's too late to do anything about half of those items. Oops. Still...my lists bring me comfort, and they allow me to "let go" of those things clamoring for attention right now before I forget. They may well also make me seem a bit obsessed. I can live with that.

Now, if I can somehow come to terms with my email In box...

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