For the Love of Lists: A lifelong obsession
I've literally had this blog post on a to do list for years. I'm pretty good at making lists of lists. And at not ticking things off my lists. It seems I've been a list writer from a very young age - as you can tell from my list above. For those who aren't fluent in Young Zabby, it reads:
- Play with dolls
- Have a rest
- Have some peace and quiet
- Music Box
I wish my lists still read like that. Let's face it, we could all do with adding number two and three to our to do lists on a daily basis right? When I was at uni I found the aforementioned list in a notepad which must have had hanging around in our house for years - there's a handwritten note by my Mum on the back that was definitely from about 10 years later. It fascinated me and led me to start a project based on my list obsession at uni that term, because that's the sort of thing you can do at art school. I started by putting Post-it notes on every page in my many notebooks that included a list. Unsurprisingly the pile of notebooks pretty much looked like a Post-it note factory at the end of it. I write a lot of lists OK?
My project never really resulted in a final piece that I can remember (I ended up becoming more obsessed with found objects and made some "bacon" bookmarks which I left in library books... but that's another story), but I did do some research into lists and the art of list-making, which I recently came across in an old sketchbook. What I love about lists is that they end up telling a story - I can look back at those Post-it filled notebooks and reminisce on holidays I went on, projects I was working on, Christmas presents I picked out for people, books I read. I've rarely been a diary keeper, but I AM a planner keeper. I write lists to keep myself organised, but also so I don't forget things (I have a terrible memory). Liza Kirwin, in her book Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists' Enumerations from the Collections of the Smithsonian Museum says that "Even the most mundane lists can be intriguing specimens of cultural anthropology" - yeah, what she said. Honestly though, if you're a list-pervert like me and pick up people's discarded shopping lists from trollies then you'll love this book - you can snoop on lists from the likes of Picasso and Alexander Calder. It accompanied an exhibition of the same name which I wish I could have visited.
(Notepad above from the Blogtacular 2017 goodie bags, pencil by Oh Squirrel)
So what do your to do lists look like? Do you score a line through your completed tasks? Tick them with a red pen? Rip them off the page triumphantly?! Personally the way I write lists changes often and I'm definitely one of those people guilty of adding an already completed task to my lists just so I have the satisfaction of crossing it off. As someone with a complex working life, dealing with multiple people and multiple companies every day, staying organised is really important to me. Last year I started keeping a bullet journal and have found it SO useful (if you're interested in starting a bullet journal yourself I recommend Nikki McWilliams' video), so useful in fact that I now have four bullet journals for four aspects of my working life! I've been thinking a lot recently about productivity and listened to one of Tiffany Han's Raise Your Hand Say Yes podcasts where she spoke to Tonya Dalton of Inkwell Press all about how we can be more productive. One of the things that came up was a "Priority List", something I've since heard Charlotte and Liv discussing on their podcast The Fringe of It - it seems everyone knew about priority lists before me! Previously I was just dumping all of my tasks in my bullet journal and working my way through them, sometimes I'd put little numbers by my check boxes, number 1 for the most important etc... But recently I've been re-writing a new list on a notepad every morning, putting the tasks from my bullet journal in an order based on what priority they need to take. It's done me a world of good! Not only is it making me work more efficiently, I am also trying to be more realistic with the amount of stuff I put on my lists so that at the end of the day I feel a sense of achievement, rather than totally overwhelmed and a bit of a failure.
I highly recommend reading all about priority lists – Tonya actually has her own podcast episode on the subject. She says that our brains can only handle about seven options before we get overwhelmed, so we need to keep our lists to fewer than seven items. Her method splits tasks up into immediate, important and insignificant and helps you work towards a goal. I'm going to try and work to her method in the next few weeks and see how I get on - I just need to sit down and work out what my goals are first!
I'm always looking for ways to be more organised. A while back I asked my instagram followers how they get through their daily tasks and it was really interesting to hear how differently everyone structured their to do lists! Some people recommended starting with a big task that you've put off for ages to get it out of the way, some people suggested starting small and ticking off all the little jobs that don't take long, so you feel a sense of achievement right from the start. I'm really interested to hear more about how other people structure their lists, so please do chime in on today's instagram post!
Now, leave me alone will you, it's time for some peace and quiet.
P.S. Here's the bottom of that to do list... it seems I was also fond of making up codes (and my priority at the time was definitely sleeping)