Friday, November 7, 2014

Just Listed

I love to make lists -- shopping lists, lifetime “I wanna do this” lists, books to read, blogs to write, music to buy, people to email, photos to have printed, vacations to take, pros and cons of a decision in process -- my list of lists could go on and on.

When I worked an office job, every Friday before leaving, I updated my project list and posted the spreadsheet on the wall of my cubicle, sweet cubicle. It helped to see it on paper, and it reduced the risk I would forget something. Even if the printed list was lost (not uncommon), it lived on my computer. Another weekly list resided in my Mead "At-A-Glance" planner (model 70-864 in case you'd like to buy me a gift.)

Some tasks appeared regularly, just under different client names and project numbers: write brochure/ad/website copy; proofread brochure/ad/website copy; follow-up with client re: budget estimate; draft meeting agenda; type conference notes; set production timeline. That kind of stuff.

Sometimes an individual project was so big it warranted its own dedicated spreadsheet. One of my first projects at my old marketing agency job was logistics for a client’s 100th anniversary event. The project’s scope was panic-inducing, but my nerves were quelled with typing. During the course of the project, the event task list evolved into a 200 line spreadsheet tracking specific tasks, timelines, and the organization or individual responsible for completion. Corralling the details in one document and knowing all possible variables were accounted for was a relief.

It is common for me to reach into a pocket and pull out an old list. “Dog food, potting soil, half and half.” “Wedding card, facial wipes, nail polish remover.” I pick up slips of paper in parking lots that hold someone else’s list and then wonder who belongs with “almonds, pears, Preparation H, tin foil, bleach.”

It is also common for me to draft a list, check it twice, and then forget it on the coffee table, kitchen counter or in the car, leaving me standing in a store tearing through pockets or my purse for the list written 20 minutes earlier. It’s frustrating, but having written it down is often sufficient and the items can be procured or the tasks completed without the list in hand.

As helpful as making lists can be, the best part is crossing things off. It’s a tangible mark of accomplishment. If I ever hit the middle of a workweek and hadn’t yet used my red pen to cross off a task from my blue inked list, it was time to take a breath and come up with something already accomplished, no matter how trivial. Then it could be added and immediately crossed off purely for the psychological boost and momentum it provided. “Update project statuses.” Boom! Done.

When the calendar page turns to November, it’s the season for the BIG lists -- the Christmas list for gifts and the New Year’s list for goals.

Names are inked in, gift ideas penciled in, and final gift purchases noted permanently in ink. Other items on the Christmas list might be treats to be baked and holiday issues to be resolved like host gifts, party dishes, and attire.

The New Year’s list has generally been harder to develop, and once drafted, often tucked into a journal. It usually reads like a conceptual wish list and over the years has included join gym, lose 5 pounds, create a website, edit/publish a book, buy a house, sell the house, find a job, pay off credit card, travel.

It’s fun to look at old lists. The can be a nice boost, especially when I slide back into adolescent angst and find myself hosting a pity party for one, feeling like I haven’t done anything (ever!). There is therapeutic value in reviewing an old New Year’s list and noting the major accomplishments like leave bad relationship (check!), buy a house (check!), pay off the car (check!), sell the house (check!), move back to New England (check!).

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