Lists are great!


This year I’ve remembered how amazing lists are. Write down a list of things I need to do, and I’ll be more likely to do them. Dong this silly little thing has helped so much with my anxiety since I slavisly started writing them again.

There’s no way to write this without it all seeming so obvious as to be patronising, but indulge me for a moment!

Lists are great for remembering things. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve made a “mental note” for what groceries I need, only to arrive at the supermarket and not have a clue. The same goes for work tasks and personal commitments.

As I’ve quoted my old boss saying so many times, if it’s not documented, it doesn’t exist. Mental notes aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on, you could say.

But I think it even goes beyond this. Writing things down into lists gives my brain permission to think about other things. I realise I was stressed last year not because I had so much to do, but because I was juggling all of it in my head at the same time. But I’m smart, I can remember to do this stuff! Yeah, nah. Having made a habit of living in Ruben’s brain, I know this squishy mess of greymatter is the last place I should be stashing tasks to remember. As Cory Doctorow would say, use an outboard brain for this!

There’s also that supreme sense of satisfaction from crossing off items. I’m motivated not just to get stuff done, but because I know I can remove another item from the list that’s been glaring at me this whole time.

The other predictable reaction to this is over-thinking. If lists are so great, a sophisticated system to store, track, and update them is better, right? NO! Having spent a small fortune on a complicated mess of Getting Things Done applications over the years, I’m back to using basic text files, and to-to items with due dates in calendars.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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