While opining on the merits of the to-do list, a friend made a comment that astounded me. She said that one of her children- who by every measure is a bright, accomplished, and generous soul, never had a to-do list in her head, much less on paper. For her, the concept simply didn’t exist. She couldn’t scratch things off her list because there was no list. “What’s a “to-do” list? Sounds a bit like the Dowager Countess asking, “What’s a weekend?”
I figured there were many who loafed without a list, but it honestly never occurred to me that there were any competent doers who didn’t keep a list of things that needed to be done. How could this thing that was my constant companion be a complete unknown to a doer? No list was about as plausible as Keebler Elves with a bakeshop in a hollow tree. Never say never, but…
If the list isn’t the rudder that steers the boat, isn’t ‘off course’, par for the course? Isn’t life disorganized and chaotic? Maybe not. Like clutter, chaos is in the eye of the beholder. What looks like mayhem to the list- lover might not faze the list-less. As with most things in life, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. So there is no reason for the list-lover to feel superior to the one who is content to follow life’s ebbs and flows, unimpeded by bossy to-dos. No list is a choice, not a moral failing.
For some, the list satisfies. For others, it punishes. Where you fall on the chaos continuum goes a long way toward explaining whether a list buoys you or brings you down. What’s your tolerance for uncertainty? Proclivity for procrastination? Allegiance to accountability? Answering these questions will help you find your place on the continuum.
I’m devoted to the list because it’s my way of getting things done. And done is the tense of “to do” that suits me best. You know you’re a hardcore list lover when you add something to the list after the fact, for the pure pleasure of scratching it off! Maybe a tad extreme, but not pathologic.
And what about the who person navigates life, sans list? The person for whom pancakes from scratch on a busy school day are more important than signed permission slips and neatly packed bookbags? Maybe a bit out there, but not crazy.
Extreme and out there are just points on the continuum. They’re far removed from center but without the edges, the center wouldn't be the center. So margins, middle and points between- there 's room aplenty. And when you know your way, you'll find your place.
About those elves. I think I've found their place. Adorable! Remember... never say never.