Tuesday, February 17, 2009

List Maker

The keys to successful and gratifying list-making are to anticipate, specify, and calculate. Don't start too big or you will wind up disappointed. Likewise if you start too small. It's about balance. You can always add items if you accomplish your original list, but if you add two things to a two item list, how accomplished are you really going to feel?

When I say specific, I mean to a point. Let's look at a recent list:

1 ...

I should mention that I do not list in any particular order. This is a matter of style and is entirely up to the list-er.

So, without the unnecessary and therefore confusing numbers, we have:

Clean cat boxes
Sweep basement
Add up Finn's medical expenses
Do money
Freeze chili

Is "Knit" really a task? Not so much, but I spend time doing it, I have projects I want to finish, so it goes on the list. It usually does not get crossed out, but I put a check by it to indicate that I did it. This is the same for "Pump," because sometimes I get to do this twice in one day. "Clean cat boxes" and "Sweep basement" are really part of the same task, because it is impossible for Hazel Cat to use the litterbox without casting litter to the four winds, which then winds up in the laundry area, on the stairs, and into the house proper. There are litter bits everywhere. But, as I can't cross off "Clean cat boxes" until the floor and stairs are swept, I have decided to separate them for the crossing-out satisfaction. Plus, my time is separated into little baby chunks, so I don't usually have the solid block of time necessary to complete the entire task at once.

"Do Money" means to pay the bills and write down any expenses in the register. I try to do this a couple of times a week, though I only pay the bills twice a week, on payday. As for Finn's medical expenses, I was getting ready for taxes, and I was curious. We wound up coming nowhere near the deductible because we are fortunate in our insurance coverage, but just in case, I decided I should check.

That's a pretty small list, but I have had to learn to temper my expectations due to the presence of a new small, hungry human in my life. On my normal speed, pre-baby, I could have accomplished twice that, but those times are gone. Gone, too, are the times when I could have left things off the list that seem too small. The Stupid that I caught during pregnancy has not gone away, and I need to write down things like "Shower" and "Breathe" or I might forget. "Slipped my mind."

I am doing pretty well on today's list. Dad's here, so that definitely helps. Today, I hope to:

Make tomato sauce (In preparation for a lasagna. The sausage is defrosting right now.)
Take out the compost (Pete did this last night, so Yay!)
Fill the birdfeeders (I have neglected them all winter.)
Dishes (This is one of those everyday things, but I write it down anyway.)
Catboxes (Done!)
Laundry (One load in the washing machine, one on deck.)
Clean the toilet (Really looking forward to this one.)
Blog (I'm on it.)
Reschedule Finn's 9 month appointment (So Pete can go along. This involves a phone call. I hate the phone.)
Sweep kitchen (Done.)
Sweep Basement (Done.)
Season cast iron skillet (We'll call it done. It gets way too smokey in the house to do this properly right now. It's better than it was.)

And, I can now add on:

Start sorting basement stuff (This will be an ongoing, "try to put half an hour in every day until it's done" sort of things. Getting ready for a garage or "tag" sale this summer. We have a lot of crap.)

You always write things down on the list if you do them, and they were not on the original list. Then you cross them off immediately. It gives one such a feeling of satisfaction.

Oh, and Finn likes sweet potatoes.
But that's part of another blog.


C K McCauley said...

I love this! One of my favorite classes in graduate school covered essential strategies of the most successful CEOs. "To Do" lists figured prominantly. Turns out that a daily list with no more than 3 items was something they all had in common.
Their claims to longterm success were all tied to "expectations" and "achievability" in daily planning.
(WE won't get in to the fact that only 2 of the CEOs were women...)
- None of them could keep up with you!

susan said...

I quit making lists when I was making a list of my lists and realized I was losing a lot of time doing this! Now each morning I pick out 3 things I want to finish today and wella! It works. I am actually making the lists in my head while sleeping--no joke! Compulsive? Yes! Grammasue