Always Make A List

Check it once. Then live your life.

I just made this list and now I will go to the store.

I am surrounded by lists — of things to buy, books to read, lipsticks to research later, things to do maybe sometime later. It’s the only way I stay organized and it’s the only way I remember to do anything at all. My memory is notoriously terrible; I remember Kim Kardashian’s middle name (Noel) but routinely forget whether or not we have fish sauce in the house every time I go to the grocery store. Clearing my brain of the useless bits of information is a lost cause. I have come to terms that I will never remember what’s important and so I make lists.

The list is really an attempt to corral what you need to do or remember into one place so that you can shame yourself — or gently remind, either way — into doing it. A grocery list prevents you from getting to the store and filling your cart with three bags of Sunchips, some instant noodles and a lot of fancy cheese. A to-do list reminds you that hey, maybe you should call your landlord to ask about the lock on the front door that only works half the time. A list of books to read is a nice thing to take with you to the library. I can’t function efficiently without a list for most tasks and I am constantly amazed by those who can.

As a former fervent journal-er, list making scratches very much of the same itch. Just because I lack the time or the energy to say, sit down every night and scribble the intimate details of my day in a blank notebook, that doesn’t mean the impulse to remember things isn’t there. A stray list, written on the back of an envelope and shoved in a tote bag, only to be found months later, serves as a document of where I was and how I was at that moment in time. Seeing “look up therapist” underlined three times in bold ink next to a reminder to “replace sunscreen” and “chapstick” gives me a pretty clear idea of how things might have been.

Make a list so you stick to your budget. Make a list so you don’t have to make a budget. Make a list so you can remember what you need to do, what you wanted to do and what you probably should do, but will do later. Don’t feel bad about not doing everything on your list. Cross off what you can, put it away and revisit it tomorrow.

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