Does Making Lists Really Help?
If you’re like me, you make lots of lists. In your head, on your computer, your phone, your planner, etc. Or on a bunch of post-it notes that you paste everywhere on your desk and around the house, as I do. Lists of what needs to be done; what should be done; what you’d like to see happen. Some are simple lists, such as what you need from the grocers; others include more important things, such as your life goals or the qualities you want in a new partner or job. There are daily lists, weekly lists, monthly lists, yearly list; short, mid and long term goal lists. The New Year holiday is traditionally a big one for making lists of all the resolutions you plan to commit to during that year.
It’s fun to make lists. It kind of gives us this great big sense of satisfaction, and the feeling that we’re actually accomplishing something just by writing down what we intend to accomplish. For a perfectionist like myself, it can also be pleasing to organize lists according to priority, categorize and sub-categorize it, color-coordinate it. For the control-freak in me, it creates the illusion that I can actually run my life with lists.
Making lists does give us the power to organize things and get them out of our head. As a matter of fact, for those of us who tend to have sleep trouble, it’s often recommended that we make a list of things we need to do before we go to bed, so that we won’t stress ourselves by running the list in our head as we try to fall asleep.
So what’s the problem with lists? Absolutely nothing, as long as we really manage to get the important stuff done. However, if you are like me, you probably tend to focus more on making the list and checking off the quick and easy items (which often qualify as busy-work) than going for the big, life-changing items. And we know which those are. We always know which those are.
As a matter of fact, have you ever noticed how these big-ticket items sometimes don’t even make it to a list? When you feel fed-up enough with the status quo and are ready for a change that you know will make your life better, you often just get started. You think about it, make a decision and take the first step. If you decide, however, to write that big-ticket item down on your list, that’s when it might end up by not getting done; at least, not any time soon. Certainly not until the next New Year’s resolutions list, when you might decide to include it in your list again. That’s why many of us often reach another New Year with the feeling that we didn’t really accomplish much of what we set off to do during that year, even though we kept busy and checked off many items from many lists. But the big resolutions, the ones that really have the potential to change our lives, were often left unchecked.
Why does that happen? Because checking off the big items can feel very uncomfortable; it takes a lot of commitment and dedication, and can cause havoc in our lives, make us feel out of control, lead to a difficult transition phase, etc. So we prefer to choose the comfortable and familiar, even when that’s not making us happy; even when life could be so much better if we just took those important, life-changing steps.
But you don’t have to wait until you reach your saturation point. If you do have important items on your list, here’s my advice: Read your list once. Check it twice. Then ask yourself which items on the list feel like the biggest challenges and make you the most uncomfortable. Chances are, they are the ones you’ve been procrastinating around, and they are exactly the ones you need to pick first… and actually start working on.
So what are you going to leave unchecked this year? Or is this the year when you just do it?
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 10/27/20
Photo by Alexas Fotos from Pixabay
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