Lists that aren’t lists

I’ve always loved lists. Long, detailed lists for everything. It’s this obvious love of lists that has drawn my attention to the sometimes-problematic nature of them.

I’ve been working with my coach on my need for lists and the impact they have on me. At one level they are incredibly helpful (see Do Not Forget article). But at another, they have become demanding babies who won’t be ignored. At their worst, they are a way for me to get things done to give me a feeling of control – where in fact there may be little. Throw in a low energy day, sickness or any other number of unforeseen circumstances that see me running at less than 100% and these lists can make me feel like I’m falling further and further behind.

In a recent coaching session, we started exploring lists that aren’t lists.

I’ll give you an example (bet you can identify)… the small pile of things by the front door that need to go to the (a) charity shop (b) dump (c) garage. It’s not a list as such, but the pile sure sits there as a very visible reminder of something that needs doing. It’s the ‘front door pile’ list.

If you find you are being “owned” by your lists, do you have any “lists that aren’t lists” and what could you do about them other than breaking them down and adding them to your already ginormous heap of things to get done?

I’ve found it useful to notice these ‘lists that aren’t lists’ and instead of noting down everything in relation to them like I usually would…

  • Take rubbish to dump
  • Go to charity shop
  • Sort out xyz for the garage

I choose to lump them together as the ‘sort stuff at front door’ and then actively schedule time in my calendar to get it all done.

You’ll feel relieved that you’ve not added 20 more things to your to do list and yet still know that you’re carving time to get this ‘non-list’ done.

If you’re a habitual list maker then give it a go.



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If you have something on your mind, a challenge you’re wrestling with or just want an alternative point of view, I’d be very happy to lend an ear and maybe help you start to unpick the issues.