Thinking About: My Aversion to To Do Lists

“To Do Today, 1/17/08
1. Sit and think
2. Reach enlightenment
3. Feed the cats”
Jarod Kintz, I Should Have Renamed This


Lately I’ve been thinking about lists. Now that I have time to think about doing all the home maintenance chores that have gone undone for the past five years while we cared for aging parents, I’ve been wondering if I should just bite the bullet and make a list.  Wondering is the operative word because I haven’t written 1. on a piece of paper or document yet. I’ve never been a list maker and I kinda don’t think I’m going to start now. Thing is, once the list is made it’s always in the back of your mind, putting pressure on you to DO IT. Just do it. In the middle of the normal everyday chores you have, like loading the dishwasher or feeding the dogs, that list pokes its way to the front of your mind and immediately the quivers under your skin begin. You haven’t even finished the chores you have to do everyday and now you’re thinking about how, when and what do I need to do something on that damn list because you know you won’t have everything you need to accomplish the thing which will add a trip to the store first to the list. Do you know there are scads of people on the internet that want to teach you how to make up a To Do List? Seriously. Here they are.

No, I’d rather keep those neglected things that need doing around the periphery of my mind. I know they’re there but they don’t poke like a list pokes, they just float. Floating is so much more manageable than poking. I’ve found what works best for me is to decide each morning what I want to accomplish that day. I’ll think of one to three things that need doing and do them. The number of things is flexible and depends on what else I have going on that day. Slow day? I might paint the trim in the bathroom and trim dead palm fronds and replace a broken fence plank. Do I have more to do? Then maybe only re-grout the shower. This way is so much less stress on my psyche and allows me to remain calm, a necessary mindset for an excitable girl.

13 thoughts on “Thinking About: My Aversion to To Do Lists

  1. I have to admit it – I am a bit of a listaholic. Just for the satisfaction of crossing items off the list. And because my memory is getting more and more sieve-like every day. But I am getting a bit more relaxed about it. For instance, I no longer make lists of the order in which to call boyfriends (I was bit duplicitous in my teens). I have even been known to go to bed without having completed everything on my list … and I was still able to fall asleep.


  2. I’ve reached the age of list-making now because I forget the things I think of doing when I have the time to do them. I’ve made up my mind to write them down over and over again; but whenever a thought springs into my mind, and I think, ah-ha, I need to write that down, I find I’ve forgotten pen and paper. So I resolve to start carrying those things around with me. But then I forget…


    1. Glenn, the stuff I need to do around the house stare me in the face every day so I can’t forget them! But there are other things I have to write down to remember which is whY my fridge gets covered with post it notes.


  3. oh this is wonderfully amusing Charlotte. I’ve neither aversion nor infatuation with lists. only that memory thing when some particular project (like vacations) come to light – priorities you know. but then I’m very easy to distract, avert, or as Glenn said, “look the other way”.

    as the well stated zenhabits might say, balance, moderation, appropriateness, keep it light. lists are fine, but just remember they’re in your pocket, not the other way around. as a friend used to say, “if you’re not happy, you’re not doing it right”. so make a game of it perhaps. a bowl with slips of things to do – blindfolded whensoever you wish. maybe even with some reward attached? always room in life for treats!

    be excited in a zen sort of way? (a poem title?) (but then list poems are one of my favorites) a list is nothing more than a knob on a drawer. do a list, don’t do a list – is all OK.

    avoidance of lists might be as much a fish-hook as self-imposed forced listing. gosh.

    maybe that bowl idea might suggest itself toward a poem/essay, ie. how I fixed my home in random order.

    good day I’ve had, but thanks for the sugar on top. ~neil


  4. I share your point of view as far as I was able to understand you. I think the really important things hover in your mind anyways.
    A German comedian once said that he was writing a long long list of chores, and afterwards he felt completely exhausted just from the sight of all those things to do.


  5. Ha! That’s exactly how I imagine I would feel, Martin. Looking at a long to-do list is too overwhelming plus I could have done a thing or two by the time I wrote it all down. 🙂


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