24 December 2012

Reflections on: making lists

After I’ve finished a major project, I lose focus. Pottering around, flitting from one task to another, I procrastinate the days away. I dabble here and there, not doing much of anything. Please tell me I’m not the only person to do this?

Long ago, I acknowledged that having to-do lists is the best way for me to operate. 

In order to achieve anything, all my tasks are written down on a great long paper list, with food shopping mixed up with deadlines for articles and reminders to plant garden seeds or cut out fabrics.

I prefer paper lists to electronic ones. There's something about writing it down with a pen that facilitates the flow of information from my brain to paper. Typing just doesn't have the same impact for me.

Having admired how some people can compartmentalise their different life roles into mental boxes, though, I thought I’d try a different technique. Perhaps it would be an easier way to organise myself and eliminate low-level anxieties about deadlines.

In an effort to separate work from the rest of my life, I started a work diary and a separate home diary. While the theory was logical, it didn’t last long because it hindered me rather than helped me.
So I reverted to my mega-list method of managing all my tasks. When a project appears totally overwhelming, I like to break it down into myriad smaller, more achievable items. It is fun to cross them off as they are done, even if it’s a one-line task as trivial as ‘buy white thread’. Perhaps it seems a little like micro-management, but the act of writing each task down makes them seem real, doable parts of my life.

Flexibility is still important, though. For 2013, I'm trying a book of lists plus a diary. Welcome to Vanessa, who will be my constant companion in 2013.

I understand that my extensive list may bring on an attack of the vapours in some people, so the technique isn’t for everyone. It doesn’t daunt me to have such a long list because it makes me feel as if I have some purpose. 

The single list works for me and putting a thick line through each item after I complete it is immensely satisfying. It proves that I don’t always drift around without focus; I actually do achieve some things after all.

We'll just have to wait to see how Vanessa copes with it all.


  1. I've had a new Vanessa every year for about 15 years. I love her! Especially the new bright colours she is now draped in. Used to be black / or black.

  2. Whilst I don't have a Vanessa, Erica, I'm a confirmed list-maker. However I'm not so efficient at achieving my listed goals. Can do better :-) I do agree with your philosophy of breaking down tasks into small bites. Its so satisfying to tick these off!

  3. I'm with you on lists. I've had a few books marked for my lists for years. I have one for The House...which is ongoing year after year - seperate double page spread for every room and sections of the yard; one for Quilting and related, including swaps; and a General All Purpose one, which also has lists of things I need immediately for projects in the other 2. I break them down into bite size pieces, too. :) In my teens, I loved making lists. I even had a List of lists to make! LOL

  4. Vanessa sounds like a brilliant friend, I have a Jukurrpa - dreaming or story diary for this coming year.. I hope some of my dreams will turn into stories.. the lists though have started already!

  5. Anonymous11:59 pm

    I can't do without my very own Vanessa. I fall apart. Nothing gets done. My brain can't connect the dots because there are too many to connect :o> I didn't have a Vanessa to keep me in check in 2012 and it, 2012, didn't work. Chaos ensued. Black holes opened up in time and space, and swallowed any ambitions and aspirations I might have had. I'm sitting here tonight with my 2013 'Frankie' filling in the blanks and making lists! toni xx


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