Listing Right

I dropped into my desk chair and pulled a note pad toward me, remembering a comment that a friend had once made. She said, “If you have a job you want done, tell a busy person to do it.” What my friend said was true. When my life was busier, I was always able and usually willing to add extra jobs to my already full days.

After a moment of thought, and a few doodles on the corner of the pad, I began to scribble a list of things to do. I wrote, ‘write letter to Barb, call Rosie, wash-dry-fold laundry, rearrange living room, clean kitty litter pan, weed flower bed.’

I have always liked making lists. Being able to cross off the items as I do them makes me feel good. Non-work items show up on my lists, ‘sit and read the newspaper’ and ‘soak in bath tub’. Some people wouldn’t write those things down, but I do. Just because they’re not house maintenance, doesn’t make them unworthy to be listed!

As other folks who have retired, I feel busy-too busy to take on extra work. But when I don’t have scheduled appointments, plans to meet friends, church activities and shopping to do, I have to be honest and admit I become directionless. I drift around my house and get nothing done. One day I complained to my daughter Tammie, “All I did today was read stuff on the Internet, make scrambled eggs to eat, hanged-up on telemarketers and let my cats in and out of the house half a dozen times.”

Tammie said, “You’re retired. That’s the kind of day you’re entitled to.”

I rudely snorted, “No, I’m not entitled to being lazy and useless! An unplanned day is a day without purpose.  I need assignments to accomplish, a sense of completion. Every night before going to bed I should make a list of jobs to do the following day.  Having a list is like having a companion. It keeps me company.”

No longer having the stimulation of a jangling alarm clock to wake me in the mornings so I can go off to save the world, I still want to have routine in my life. Looking down at the note pad in front of me, I added, ‘get bills from mailbox.’

Putting down the pen, I pulled on a sweater and walked outside to collect the mail. When I returned to the house I decided to wash dishes. While taking clean canning jars to the basement, I noticed that my entryway needed cleaning.

Hours later I sat down to eat lunch. I pulled my note pad closer to examine it.  I crossed out the things I’d done, then added the things which hadn’t been listed. Then I crossed those items off.

I know I am not the only person in this world who writes to-do items on a list after they are done, simply to be able to cross them off.

The world won’t end if everything doesn’t get crossed off a list. The list is merely suggested activities, not contracts. Sometimes I use my lists for ignition to get me moving in the mornings.

Lists help me remember items. Returning from the grocery store without the one thing I really needed is very irritating.

Lists keep me on time, prompting me to remember birthdays and appointments.

If you are not careful, lists can sabotage you. Listing too many things to do leaves a person feeling like a failure. No one is this world can grocery shop, paint the living room, shampoo the carpets and weed the garden all in one day. With a list like that, only one or two things would be crossed off by nightfall.

Being realistic, I make out two different lists. One is for things that need to be done right away. “Put roast in oven by three pm so it will be done for supper.” “Put letter in mailbox before noon.” My second type of list is for long range or seasonal jobs. “This fall, after it freezes, pull up plants in garden” “spread alfalfa meal on soil and till” “wash windows” “clean the basement.”

Tammie called this evening. She said, with obvious satisfaction, “I’ve had such a nice day today! I was able to cross everything off my list, even the bike ride.” Smiling to myself, I nodded, fully understanding her sense of accomplishment.




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