A Look Inside my Lists

For better or worse, I chaperone a number of dances each year.  These usually leave me feeling old, somewhat disheartened and wondering where all of those slow-dance songs of my own childhood have gone.  Things are different now, including how young men meet young women.

The aquisition of phone numbers occupies a great deal of attention nowadays at dances.  Instead of a handsome pad of paper (very professional, no?), kids have cell phones which serve as the collection bucket for phone numbers. Before you roll your eyes at teenage behavior, let me suggest that their methods reveal a sophisticated method of list keeping.


Capturing information in a trusted system (see my post on lists) makes sense.  The mind can only remember so much at one time so any number of "buckets" become necessary.  Post it notes, pads of paper, iPhones, PDA's, voice recorders- the list goes on.  For teens, the cell phone is the capture tool of choice.  It's quick, allows for instant follow up and has a trendy vibe.  Who can forget the first Moto Razr phones?  You just wanted one even if you already had another cell phone- it was that cool.


David Allen's GTD methodology is big on list keeping and capturing data into trusted systems.   I've been listening to his GTD Live! audio set and my motivation to cultivate lists has only increased.  The goal of this is not only to be able to touch the data at a later time but to clear the head so as to focus on more important things.  A 2007 Wired interview put it this way,
"Allen says his goal is to be free from worrying about anything he has to do. His techniques allow him the pleasure of having, much of the time, nothing on his mind. 'People are afraid of the void, afraid of negative space,' he says. 'But having nothing on your mind is one of the most awesome experiences.'"


Which lists am I currently maintaining?  Here are a few:

  • Around the house- 2 hour projects

  • Around the house- more than a day projects

  • Blog post ideas

  • Books to buy

  • By summer's end

  • Computer tasks

  • Craigs List/Ebay

  • Errands

  • Hardware store

  • Library- books to check out

  • Magazine subscriptions

  • Nice to have

  • Office

  • Online sites and articles to read

  • Phone calls

  • Someday/maybe

  • Supermarket

  • Why Catholic invites

I check these lists about once a week, some more often.  I've found a tremendous freedom in knowing that I have a system that I can trust for idea incubation, triggers to remember things, and blue-sky thinking.


As you consider your own life, it's a good time to evaluate your own list-keeping system.  How much do you trust your own lists?  How often do you check them?  If you're like me, I bet that an increased dedication to list-keeping will pay off and move you closer to a clear mind.  List-keeping is very contemplative and helps to appreciate the many blessings of daily life.

*Photo by sunshinecity