I'm one of those: the list-makers.
And all my lists have to be on paper. My mom keeps me supplied with freebie note pads (realtors, charities, banks, hotel chains), and I make heavy use of them. I write out grocery lists, of course, but the thing I kill most trees for is the Almighty Sacred to-do list.
My favorite part of writing out a to-do list is creating the little box or line (or sometimes I feel like circles) that sits there expectantly, hopefully, waiting for me to come back and mark that this particular "to-do" is now "done."
I'm so addicted to checking things off of my to-do lists, sometimes I'll list routine items like "take a shower."
Though...that might be a bad example. I work for myself, from my house, and I'm an empty nester. A shower is not always a given.
Ok, better example: sometimes I'll write down "eat breakfast" (that is a given -- I love my food). Yet somehow, even though I know it's ridiculous to give myself credit for something I absolutely would never neglect to do, I still get a little thrill of accomplishment when I mark the box.
This addiction stems from another addiction -- an addiction to planning. I have to have a plan, for almost everything. The dichotomy is, I am extremely impulsive. So I usually throw my plans out the window pretty early on (and then make a new plan to justify it...with a matching list).
Thanks to this impulsiveness, I cannot remember the last time I actually checked off all my cute little boxes, or lines, or circles, on a to-do list. Sometimes I decide it's due to putting too many things on the list in the first place. Not the ridiculous "given" items. Real things like "grocery shopping" or "revise chapter three" or "laundry." When I stare at all the little unchecked boxes at the end of a day, or a week (yes, I make weekly lists on top of the daily ones. Oh, and monthly ones, and sometimes a 30-day challenge... Why are you making that face?).
The blank boxes mock me. They go back and forth between telling me I'm unrealistic (I set too many goals) and I'm lazy (I didn't use my time well).
And I don't actually know which of those is true...if either.
Sometimes I get a sneaking suspicion that I'm looking at life wrong. Or at least emphasizing the wrong agendas.
I spend so much time making (and discarding and revising) plans and lists, they've become my measuring stick. This habit has become more pronounced since my children have moved on and out of my home. I can't measure my worth by their health or good grades or happiness anymore (I never should have based my worth on those things to begin with -- those things came from their own efforts and character traits and the grace of God).
As I sit here in my house and call myself a writer, with only years-old publishing credits and one fantastically faithful agent to prove it...what do all these lists mean, anyway? If I check off "revise chapter 3" does that make me a real writer? What if my revisions made it worse, so I'm no closer to finishing this manuscript, let alone publishing the last one?
Does the little blank box beside "grocery shopping" make me less of a wife? It makes the pizza guy happy, since I'll have to order delivery again. My husband doesn't seem to mind, and he certainly doesn't love me less.
The number of things I check off my list doesn't actually define me -- whether it's in regard to my "status" as Wife or Writer or Decent Human Being (did I make that meal for my sick friend?). List-making and planning are fine, but not if they become chains around my neck.
The thing that really defines me and creates my identity is purpose. (You knew that was coming -- I should've written "spoiler alert" right there in the title of this post.)
Why is "grocery shopping" on the list? Because I want to, at least most of the time, create nourishing meals for myself and my man. I like him. He likes hot meals and the way that I cook them. Meals require food, and in my non-rural life, all the food comes from the store.
Why is "revise chapter three" on the list (besides the fact that it currently sucks and needs fixing)? Because I was made to write (I almost qualified that with "I think" but lookie! I revised it!). I have always known that, even on the days I think I might be crazy to believe it. And so there is a purpose behind that list item. It's not just something to check off. It's one glimpse of a larger vision.
If purpose is not at the root of the plan, and the list doesn't support that plan AND that purpose, then it's useless and frivolous and will only serve to foster self-doubt and depression.
So here's what I'm thinking:
I plan to keep my purposes in mind when I'm making my lists (see what I did there?).
My purpose: to be a writer (this requires...um...writing).
My purpose: to be a steward of what I've been given (my material gifts, my talents, my relationships).
With that broader view, my hope is that my list items will have more meaning; and as long as I'm living according to my purpose, then the little unchecked boxes won't mock me.
What's your purpose? How is it reflected in your plans?
(Whee! Now I get to check off "write blog post!"
No, I'm not kidding.)