JulieLeung.com: a life told in tidepools

pictures and stories from the water’s edge

JulieLeung.com: a life told in tidepools header image 2

Why I don’t like lists

July 13th, 2004 · No Comments

Katherine’s series on I like, I don’t like, I love included this comment:

I like gettings things done, I don’t like having things hanging over my head, I love checking it off the list

In the past few years I’ve had to re-examine what it means to “get things done”. Lists are only effective for 10% of my day. I suppose if I wanted to do so, I could make a list each morning and write “Make Breakfast for Kids” then cross it off. However, it doesn’t give me a sense of final accomplishment. It’s an infinite loop.

After all, there are only 3,000 mornings or so remaining when I need to make breakfast for the girls. Maybe more, depending how long it takes for Abigail and Michaela to master the art of operating the Toaster Oven. Or maybe less. Perhaps putting granola in a bowl would be easier to prepare…

Or sometimes when I put out effort to try to finish a task, I find that it is more complicated than I had anticipated. There are details I hadn’t noticed that require additional attention, making the requirements longer. And there are often interruptions that require housecleaning skills, referee calls or medical attention. Sometimes, despite my desire to get things done, I have to submit to my physical needs and get rest instead.

And there’s always the morning when I wake up feeling ambitious only to discover one or more members of our household are ill. On days like those, I can forget crossing anything off a list, except for “Call Doctor” “Go to Clinic” “Visit Pharmacy” and “Buy Tylenol”.

It’s a way of life. It’s frustrating but also fun. I’ve learned that life isn’t linear. Lists don’t fit every situation. It’s been a good lesson for the formerly list-driven me who used accomplishments as her mantras.

When I have to pay our mortgage or make a medical appointment, I do write it down and cross it out. With the time I have, I try to use what I learned in Getting Things Done. But much of my life doesn’t make a good list. It defies writing. It’s infinite loop or it’s random, more like a brainstorming chart with arrows in different directions than a flow chart or set of folders.

I have my moments when I feel I just can’t get anything done!, as Lisa Williams said. In recent years, as we’ve added kids and more kids to our home, I’ve changed the way I look at life. I’m finding that I have to live by daily standards rather than by goals. Principles have come to mean more to me than accomplishments. Even with educating my kids, I’m focussing more on how we are learning than precisely what we are learning. I could add that to my list every day too: Educate Children. But when can I cross that one off the list for good? To be fair I should also put Learn from Children. That happens every day too.

So with my larger goals of life, I’ve come to focus more on daily effort. For example, as I’m working with the girls, I focus on the time and effort spent rather than the number of chapters read, projects completed or experiments attempted. Weeding is another endless task. I’ve tried to focus more on the goal of spending a certain number of hours a week, rather than getting the yard to a “weed-free” impossibility.

I think this means I’m trading my “J” for “P” in my INFJ. Or perhaps getting closer. It should not be a surprise perhaps that on this personality test (via Joey deVilla), I was categorized as a hippie.

You are passionate about your causes and steadfast in your commitments. Once you’ve made up your mind, no one can convince you otherwise. Your politics are left-leaning, and your lifestyle choices decidedly temperate and chaste.

You do tremendous work when focused, but usually you operate somewhat distracted. You blow hot and cold, and while you normally endeavor on the side of goodness and truth, you have a massive mean streak which is not to be taken lightly. You don’t get mad, you get even.

Hmmm. You mean it didn’t have to do with my long hair, granola recipe or homeschooling? I’m not sure how much of this is true for me (mean streak?!). Then again I was borderline in all but one category so I have other identity options. Maybe though there is truth there…maybe lists would help me be less distracted…

Despite my feelings for lists, this list from at-home dad Eric Rice I saw on Marc Canter’s blog brought a smile to my face. At least I’m not trying a “Dual potty-training exercise”.

Time to finish this post and go attack the list I’ve scribbled before going to bed…perhaps though at the end of the day I should be examining another list maybe like this one:

Did I love God today?
Did I love people?
Did I try my best?
Was I open to learning and changing?
Did I ask for mercy, grace and forgiveness?
Did we have fun?
Did we laugh?
Did we see beauty?

Ah, I am starting to sound like a hippie, indeed. And this list seems too simple, as if these questions could be answered with black and white yes and no answers all the time. Also too I don’t think that people can be broken into components and prescribed on a page. I can’t ennumerate all my qualities or the ones I hope to have. Yet I believe in evaluating myself. And I hope that some of this doesn’t need to be a list. I hope that it becomes who I am, that this list becomes my lifestyle.

Okay, now I can cross this post off of my list and go make some granola…;-)

Tags: journal