i love lists.
lists govern many facets of my life, admittedly sometimes to my detriment. once, when i had to travel i relied on multiple lists to prepare for my trip. i used my TRIP list to pack my bag. i used my BATHROOM list to pack my toiletries. i used my SKI list to pack my ski gear. as always is the case, the trip prep went fast and easy. then, thankfully before getting out of my neighborhood, i realized i forgot my wallet. reason for the oversight--my wallet wasn't on any of my packing lists.
some want to use that story as a reason to not use lists. they argue that becoming over-reliant on lists causes you not to think. to be overly dependent on something less powerful than your brain. something imperfect. they say lists neuter your mind, hamstring your thinking. the flaw to this contrarian logic is the belief that the mind was made to remember administrivia like this. that our minds, when rested and working properly, don't let small, or even significant things (like a wallet) slip through the cracks. but these sorts of things are not what our minds were constructed for. these are all blinkingly recent constructs. our mind's core mandate has always been to (1) keep us alive and (2) solve problems—not to remember that last year it would have been helpful to have a pair of fingernail clippers on your once-a-year ski trip. my packing list was made near-perfect by adding the single word WALLET to it. i say near-perfect because lists, like everything in this universe, are ever-evolving and never done. just because i start preferring protein bars over mixed nuts for my mid-flight snack doesn't mean the value of a list gets undermined. it just means that lists are living, undulating things that are more like a garden that needs occasional tending than they are to a pet rock that doesn't.
and unlike most proclamations or troy-tistics i share on this site, this one comes with evidence. the following two books (our first list!!!) very expertly illustrate the above points:
of all the self-improvement books i have read (and i have read a good number of them—i've even read a book that is an encyclopedia of self-improvement books—out-dork that!) that first book is the one and only self-help book i believe every human being living in the first-world should read. it is the only book i have ever read that has a super-proven method and a truly global applicability (no i don't believe you know where everything is on your train-wreck of a desk). further, his methods are so mature and refined, he has a way to convert your 1000+ message inbox to a zero-message bit of beauty in less than two minutes. the second book is just an interesting treatise for a list-nerd like me and does lots to bolster and validate their value.
- getting things done by david allen
- the checklist manifesto by atul gawande
the fact is lists don't hamstring your mind, they liberate it. short reason for this is it frees the mind to chew on more interesting and creative problems, problems it is built and meant to tackle. for many their minds aren't allowed to gallop across life's countryside because it has been relegated to standing in the corner holding a post-it with this week's dinner plans instead of proffering how the life of its owner can be bettered or how that elusive work problem might finally be conquered (the answer is far closer than you think).
further, i know i am not the only list fetishist out there as can be seen in our societal love-fest with lists at year's end. best of this. best of that. this time of year it is hard not to bump into a list of one sort or another. being a fan myself, i'm dedicating the next three weeks (three weeks !!!) to lists and will share a different list from my life every day for those three weeks. some of my lists will be:
that's two lists down and it's only monday. i hope you enjoy list-fest.
- functional (my morning checklist),
- some totally personal (my most-loved material possessions),
- and some will live somewhere between the two genres (the best conversations i have ever witnessed first-hand).