Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Rules of List Engagement

My diary is a list-holder.

This is my diary:
  • Pencil only, preferably mechanical pencil. No pen must ever touch a page. What, there's no pencil in sight? You're in bed? It is worth getting up.
  • Sub-tasks are indented below their heading with a bullet that looks like a hyphen. This system must match for the whole diary. You cannot just switch to circular bullets on a whim - you've committed to this style for the year.
  • Tasks for the day should be written in their proposed order of completion, but deviations are acceptable. The times the manufacturer has pre-printed along the side of the page are no indication of the scheduled time for tasks. After all, each line represents 30 minutes, and some jobs that take up one line take 2 hours, others 10 minutes. They are both line-worthy. Tasks or events with a set time must have the time handwritten next to them, at left. E.g. A midwife appointment.
  • Memo pads, business cards and scrap paper are made redundant by effective listing. Phone numbers, shopping lists, and phone messages to be passed on to others should all go into the master list. There should not be pieces of paper you must dig for in your bag, or scan for in your home. You should be able to flick back and get a number again when your husband loses it a week after you give it to him.
  • Completed tasks get a tick next to them, at left. Ticks should be uniform and worthy of the description "cute". Hasty ticks are not welcome...nor ticks that look more like a diagonal line.
  • At day's end, incomplete tasks get a circle next to them, at left. This circle remains to highlight the "undoneness" of the task. The circle is filled with a cross if it is moved to another day, or with a tick if it is completed without being written onto another day's agenda.
  • Some tasks earn multiple ticks. "Washing" for example, can be a real tick-earner. Washing and hanging out one load = one tick. Bringing in, folding and putting away one load = one tick. This multiple tick system is important, otherwise some days you will only have three or four ticks to show for your day's labour, when really, you did so much more. "Washing" and a single tick does not say enough. Some will tell you "everyday jobs" need not make such a list; that "dishes" is not list-worthy. They are wrong. There is no therapy in viewing a list of three "unusual things" you got done at day's end. But three ticks next to "Dishes", four next to "Washing", two next to "Change Beds", and THEN the three unusual things...now that, that is a list to be proud of my friend.
  • Any unanticipated task completed should also be added to the day's list, even if in hindsight. Then tick it. Viewing the tick-list at day's end is just as important as viewing it at its commencement.
  • List items may also serve as reminders. Writing in, "Start thinking about my Sharing Time next week", for example, ensures that the lesson topic gets viewed early, and it's an easy tick. You feel good, and you're preparing - win-win.
  • Some will tell you that making this list is time-consuming. That you could have got something else done in the time you took to make your list. They are also wrong. The lists are rarely made in a single sitting; when you think of something you need to do, but can't do now, you add it to the day you will commit to do it. And ticking takes but a moment. A moment that gives you oh-so-much joy.
  • Sunday is a good day for reflecting on the past week's lists, and looking forward to the next. Or Monday. Never Wednesday. Wednesday is very middley.
  • You may think it is a good idea...but reading your list to your spouse at day's end never inspires the kind of admiration you hope it will. Give up. The list is for you, not for him/her. If you're writing it for someone else, you're not doing it right.
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