• jane anderson

The To-Done List

Anyone else a list addict? Are you like me and use any excuse to get things down on paper (IT won't cut it in this respect). Do you love-hate the minutiae of list-making but succumb to it anyway? Are you currently listing for AW20 - the house, the garden, the kids, the presents (Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries etc etc), work, leisure, food, meals....

If I was to be buried with my lists I think the space needed to accommodate us all would be very large indeed. At any one time I could do the rounds of my coats, jackets, cardigans, jeans pockets and turn out half a dozen scrappy cardboard shopping lists. From these I could extrapolate what I still needed to do/buy/get on with and create the foundation of a brand new list.

So, is this a very sad waste of time or actually quite an effective way of holding onto one's sanity in a busy world? I guess it depends on your perspective. We all have to find our way through life and lists are what I fall back on time after time so it must work for me. It certainly empties of my head of the odd stuff I don't want there to be able to focus on the paying work that allows me to survive. If you're interested here's a list of what a lifetime of list-making has taught me:

How to be a Master To-Do Lister

  1. Be aware of miscellaneous trivia or concerns calling you away from your immediate, chosen pursuit

  2. Acknowledge, respect and nail this stuff by -

  3. Writing it down and corralling it in appropriate place ie a list!

  4. Now rest easy knowing that the nagging issue is safely stored for later attention

  5. Get on with your work in hand

  6. Repeat above as necessary

  7. Deal with/attend to The List as a separate piece of work in its own right

  8. Extra peace of mind tip - keep all your lists in one place eg a diary

When you've mastered the To-Do list you might like to consider the To-Done List. This is really good fun and useful to boot. When you're old(ish) and distracted and own-working like me, it's infuriatingly easy to repeat things you've already completed. Stop this by:

  • remembering to add jobs the To-Do list in the first place

  • crossing each off the To-Do when you've done it (pleased sigh)

  • adding them to a To-Done List if they're not already on a To-Do list (pleased nod and smirk)

A To-Done list is a quick and easy way to document and appreciate everything you've accomplished in a day/week/month or whatever. Kept in a diary, it's an instantly accessible, useful and satisfying record of your work output (you'll find it's quite high). Some people even prefer to record all of their work after the event in To-Done lists, rather than beforehand in To-Do Lists. Exciting isn't it.

Remember though, you manage your lists. It shouldn't be the other way round. Don't become a list slave, creating endless streams of impossible to complete tasks just for the sake of it, beating yourself up for your lack of efficiency when you inevitably fail strike off the last item. Lists are there to alleviate fretting, not add to the confusion, so know when to stop.

Keep lists short and the point. Set a specific time and date to deal with them; this is important. The things you list are not minor or ancillary to your 'proper' work - to be fitted in as and when - they are your work, so respect them as such by allocating sufficient time and headspace for their completion.

So list-away in the knowledge that you are probably a little more in control of your life with lists than without them.

Jane Anderson PhD specialises in Sociospacial Reciprocity and Place Therapy. She's been working in wellbeing for nigh on 30 years and is especially interested in the people-place relationship and how it underpins all other aspects of staff engagement and wellbeing. Her Staff Wellbeing Framework Model is now charter-marked for quality assurance.

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