Saturday, December 10, 2011

I’ve worked it out and I’m about 36 years behind schedule on my to-do list. 

That’s not so bad.

The main problem is that I keep adding more than I cross off.

It’s always been the same.

When I worked in Marketing, my boss had a very simple and terrifying time-management system. It was a piece of paper and a pen. It used to scare the pants off me every time I saw it and heard the ominous words “Ah, Peter …”

Whenever he gave me a job to do he would write it on the piece of paper. And my heart would sink. It would stay on the list until it was completed – properly, fully, finally completed – and then it would be crossed off. By that time, however, many more items would have been added so it was no relief to see one crossed off.

It worked, though, and we accomplished a lot. But it was relentless.

Now I have my own pieces of paper with lists written on them. Many, many lists – some going back many, many years. The difference now is that I love these lists. I don’t mind at all that there’s more to do than has been done. That gives me hope that I’m not done yet.

My want-to-do lists are lengthy and detailed. Most days I add some new items. Soon, I’m going to need a fatter ring-binder to keep them in. The good thing is that when I look through them they remind me of my dreams and aspirations – and then provide me with one thing I can do today that will move me a little closer.

It helps, of course, that there’s no-one looking over my shoulder. No-one saying “Ah, Peter …” and no-one saying “I thought you said you were going to …” The only one making me feel unproductive, ineffective or guilty is me. And I’m getting quite good at telling myself to “shut up”.

Sometimes, of course, my lists get me down and I’m tempted to tear them up and start again. But then I remind myself that these are not things I have to do … they are (mostly) things I want to do. It’s quite exciting to look through the lists and find something I’d forgotten I wanted to do. It reminds me that I still have a lot of life to live and not to give up.

So as long as I have life I’ll have lists.

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