Monday is About Making Lists

Good morning everyone!

I come from a family of list makers. My mom is famous for her lists. She’s listed her way through more successful moves than anyone I know. She uses her lists to fight disorder, entropy, messy homes, chaos at the grocery store and cancer as well as numerous other medical trials of which, she has now in her late 80’s, many.


I was sort of casual about my own list making for some time. I’d make them sure but then lose them amongst the clutter on my own desk. Then I developed elaborate systems for keeping track of what was half done, fully done and so forth. Perhaps I made them a bit too complicated. (There’s some touches of OCD in the family!)

Then for a while, I felt so busy that my lists could barely keep up with reality.


Now, enjoying the process of creating new clean open spaces in my physical space and home and office, the simple list is making a comeback.  And I offer my experience here in case it might be helpful to you as well. If not, please disregard anything that doesn’t resonate.

I used to try and list EVERYTHING I “had” to get done. All that brought about were several monster-sized lists that included enough tasks and activities for a whole month but which I indicated should be done in a day or maybe a week!

Absolute silliness! Who can do all that?

Not me! Not anyone I suspect. I mean, sometimes too much is just that – too much.

So now, my lists are humbler, less ambitious and I like to think, realistic. They’ve let go of visions of perfection and trying to please everyone on the planet at all times starting now. If I were a dog, I’d be a Border Collie if that helps paint a clearer picture.

Zoo Zoo summer 08

Generally, I include things that are part of daily practice anyway, like meditating and yoga or tai chi practice. I sit and let the list come to me. I ask, “what really needs to happen just today? What can wait till later?” Then I write a list for today and toss a few other things into the calendar for later in the week. Things which really need a time set for them I do that. But the other stuff, I just let it be. And that helps relax my poor lizard brain which is otherwise at constant threat of shouting at me all day long:

     “You won’t have enough time! Nothing will get done. It’s going to be a disaster!  
     And you won’t be ready! And then what? Under attack, attack, attack!”

And this is what’s working for me right now. A little gentler than earlier versions. A little less Type-A for you 70’s- 80’s folks out there.

So, I guess the point is, that as with anything, we all have to find what makes sense for us, whether it’s about work, or lists or love. I just know that  amongst many of the people I work with, others I meet here and there, there’s a common theme of stress around getting shit done and how to manage it all. There’s many ways to wrangle that particular herd of cats. For today, I suggest for all of us – try holding it all a bit more loosely. Determined to get things done but without letting that lizard run the whole show.

Make a list. Use paper or a device. Whatever feels right to you. And then as you write stuff down, try asking each item and yourself – how does this feel? Am I doing things which make me feel fettered or free? And yes, of course we all have to do some things which are not our favorite things but when there’s more of them than not, maybe we need to re-evaluate. At least, we might try spreading out least favorite things out, mixing them in with stuff we love for balance.

So many great spiritual teachings tell us this – go in the middle. Seek balance. 

So it is with lists and getting things done. As we do one thing, so we do everything. The more we practice with balance, I suspect the easier those lists will be and the happier we will be too.

Let me know how it goes.

May all be happy. May all be free of suffering.

May all feel the peace and joy of the true inner nature.

Happy Monday one and all.



Author: Hillary Johnson

Improvisational documentary and fine art photographer.

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