Friday, February 4, 2011

Making a List

Every morning, I make a list of things I’m never going to do.

Of course, that’s not my intention as I make the list. I honestly think I’m going to dust all 21 window blinds today. I think I’m going to clean out the fridge, mop the kitchen, shop for replacement cabinet hardware and hot-tub supplies, complete all the tasks on my list and go to sleep tonight secure in the knowledge that I’ve done everything in my power to keep my life perking along.

I’m Valerie Norris and I’m a listaholic.

I love making lists. Each morning I make the day’s to-do list, with everyday tasks such as laundry, mopping, making a meal plan for the week, errands, etc. Also, I have a list for those big, pesky tasks that could take days/weeks/months to complete, such as that quilt that’s going to disintegrate before I finish it, or filling out the “Grandma” books, or putting photos from the last 30 years into some semblance of order. You know, the things I’m never actually going to do.

But the other day I actually crossed something off my long-term to-do list. It was an historic moment. Tears stood in my eyes as I held my pen aloft in a moment of respectful silence before inking a solid line through the listing, knowing that the task itself was not that big a deal, but the fact that I had finally done it—priceless.

Most people don’t make lists of mundane tasks. Most people don’t have my tendency to—ooh, something shiny! What was I talking about? Oh yeah, lists. I tend to get caught up in whatever’s in front of me, and soon the day disintegrates like the fabric in that quilt I can’t seem to finish. So my lists keep me on track. Even if I only cross off half of the items, I can see that I accomplished something. I didn’t “p--- away another day,” as my long-retired parents say. And for some reason, that helps me.

Are you one of those who somehow remembers that the hot tub needs to be checked regularly, or that you need to plan and shop prior to the Superbowl party or your guests will be eating that frozen fish that never sounded as appetizing after you lost the article about Omega-3s? Or are you a list-maker? Let me know which type you are. I’m making a list.


  1. You are definitely a listaholic. I remember coming to work with you and you started off by telling me to make a list of things to do so I could check them off. I am ADD which allows my mind to constantly spin and had never made lists. The question is.....did you change me to a listaholic???? No you didn't but I have tried to share the idea with other people who can't seem to get things done. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. were a great influence and wil always a great friend but you can't force me to pick up your habit..hee hee!! JBR

  2. I am, have always been, and shall always be a listaholic. I was famous for it growing up. When I was in college and living in the dorm, my mother dropped by when I wasn't in. She immediately asked my roommates where my list was so she would know where to find me!

  3. When i was working, I had three duplicate lists: flip calendar, desk calendar, and one in my shirt pocket. Now that's obsessive-compulsive for you. Nowadays, I've pared it down to only a couple.

  4. I have that same tendency to get distracted. I'll start to clean the living room, remember that I need to put in a load of clothes, and go to the laundry room. While there, I'll notice that the floor needs mopping, but I have to go upstairs to get the floor cleaner. In the kitchen, I see that I haven't unloaded the dishwasher... three days later I wander into the living room and discover I never finished dusting. After years of wandering around my house and never quite cleaning it all , we hired a service, because I really need to be writing, and all that wandering around wasn't getting words on the page.

    But I do make lists for things I need to pick up, errands that need running, etc. I don't think I could function without a list of where I need to go... I might end up wandering around the city...

  5. The goal of making lists is to actually cross out the task. If you make a list know full well you won't do that task, it's a choice you make. Forget distractions or "that's just the way I am" excuse. Nike had it right: just do it.

    Want a challenge? Make different lists.

    The first list is your Winner List. Tasks you WILL do TODAY. Doable and reachable tasks. Anything else would be just to set yourself up for failure.

    The What If list: things you might or might not do, but you don't want to forget the idea.

    Then there's the Super Star list. Tasks you want done in the long run.

    Come on. Try it for a week...

  6. Wow, Carole. You are such a Type-A! I usually star (*) the items I MUST do. If I complete other items, it's bonus points. Thursday I crossed off the entire list. Friday, 70%. I don't think of it as failure if I don't finish the list. I always manage to do the most critical stuff. The rest gets carried over.

    My long-term list? Someday I'll do those things, but right now they're not fitting into my life/schedule. And I'm okay with that, usually. Unless I'm in a "not-writing" phase, and then everything bothers me. Like right now!

  7. So what was the long-term task you finished?

  8. Ali--I actually cut out and sewed the three pairs of flannel pajama bottoms. I'd been wearing men's ugly, blah p.j. bottoms ever since I got to the "cold at night" phase, and have been promising myself cute flannels. Now I have pink breast cancer ribbons, a bright blue plaid and some teal green cloudy-print pajamas!