Confessions of a List-oholic

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I envy my husband. He lives a list-free existence. Paul never makes a to-do list and has no plans to start. Me? He calls me a “list junky.”

For appointments and meetings, that info goes straight to my phone calendar, which is the logical use of current technology. But if you open my purse, you’ll find three old-school lists on three scraps of paper held together with a paper clip. The first is titled TODAY, the second TOMORROW and the third MISC. for those tasks in need of future attention, somewhere between this week and the next century.

Lists are like maps, guideposts to chart my daily course. When we leave the house for errands, I know exactly what’s required to make my life manageable. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, so lists are no replacement for setting goals. (Note to self: add “Set Goals” to MISC. list.)

If I have a dozen tasks on my current list, I take pleasure in crossing off each one as it’s completed. It doesn’t matter if I finish everything, as long as I know what I could be doing if I end up in a mall or various parts of the city.

At the start of each day, I re-write a new TODAY list, bumping unfinished chores onto it and jotting down fresh tasks.

Here’s one benefit to this routine: nothing is forgotten when we travel. “Wow, you remembered my lucky hat!” Paul will say. I’ll smile and shrug, knowing that I owe my organized life to a 99-cent pen and a few pieces of recycled paper.

I’m also a list mentor. I convinced my husband’s friend that life becomes more productive and less stressful with a list. He followed my advice and awoke the next morning to a reminder on his cell’s calendar: PHONE BILL. Then he spent the next hour trying to recall which Bill he was supposed to phone – he works with three!) and why was he supposed to call this Bill? It wasn’t until late afternoon that he remembered: PAY THE PHONE BILL! At least he tried. Hey, good list making takes practice.

Maybe some people should continue to limp along through their list-free worlds, accepting missed appointments and undelivered dry-cleaning. Apparently they’re happy, even if they forget to mail that Welcome New Baby card before the child begins college.

The reason my husband doesn’t need to make lists? “I’m no fool,” he says, “I have YOU to make them for me.” (Note to self: be more spontaneous!)