Tuesday, June 01, 2010

'To Do' or 'Not to Do' - Answers

By Susan Gallacher-Turner

Last time, I wrote about my habit of list making and whether 'To Do' or 'Not to Do' helps or hinders my creativity. I wondered how other people manage their lives and creative projects. Did they have long lists, too? Or no lists at all?

I worried that a life without lists, might become too listless, that I would dabble here and there never getting anything done ever again. But was having so many lists about everything becoming a burden rather than giving me freedom from fear? I wondered if there was a better way to manage all the projects I need to get done without hyper-managing myself with lists.

So I asked for help. And thank you all for sharing your thoughts on lists and your own list making strategies. Here are your comments and ideas.

Kim Switzer said:
I do make lists, but they don't help me get everything done. I've stopped making highly detailed lists, though. I make a list for a period of 2-3 days rather than a daily list, and I only put on it the big things that need my time and attention. That way, I don't get caught up in the small busy-nesses of life and forget to focus on what really needs me. I've been doing this since the end of last year, and it seems to help me get things done without leaving me overwhelmed by a too huge "to do" list.

Stacy(aka goldenbird) comments:
I have slowly stopped making lists almost without realizing it. I used to make them on the weekends because I felt overwhelmed with stuff I needed to do, but then I would get bummed out because I didn't want to spend the weekend checking off a to-do list. At my day job I have a to do list of my big projects, but I don't make lists of the little tasks anymore. Everything somehow gets done.

Caelista said:
Like goldenbird, I used to start the weekend with a big list but it was depressing to have so many tasks ahead of me, and then the lists kept getting longer as I remembered more things I needed to do. I never seemed to get through them.

Lois J. de Vries writes:
I keep a Master List by category that I add to whenever something occurs to me. From that list, I choose three to four priorities (in various categories) for each month.
On Mondays, I make a weekly list of everything I would like to get done that week and have gotten over the idea that the list is way too long. That isn't its purpose.
Whatever doesn't get done on Monday is carried to Tuesday. What's left on Tuesday's list gets carried to Wednesday, etc. Yes, sometimes things come up that have to be added. On the weekends, the list may change completely, to address just weekend things. On Monday, I carry forward whatever is left over from the previous Friday and add more things.Over time, the irritation of seeing the same item on the list every day for two months or more acts as an incentive to finally get it off the list. I either decide not to do it, or do it. I view lists as organizational tools that free up brain cells that would otherwise be used for repetitive tasks of remembering. Past a certain age, it's the only way you can remember anything.
These days I try to focus on one main thing I need to get done each day, or at least no more than three main things. That seems to work a lot better because I can actually finish them!

Thanks to you all again!

I can see that there are many ways to look at lists and the more creative you are, the more creative you can be with your lists. Using them as an organizational tool and a memory jogger, a way to get big projects and goals done, or keeping them small and doable. Hearing that things can get done without lists made me curious. What would happen if I tried going listless for a week? Would I become a non-productive drone or would I still get work done?

I've decided to take your advice to heart this week and try a week without a list. So, I threw out my lists, took down my post-it notes and closed my notebook next to my computer. Will I get work done? Or will I wind up in front of the TV staring into space? I'll keep you posted...now I could make a list about that...but :)

If you want to see some of my sculpture, check out my website at Susan Gallacher-Turner Sculpture and you can read more about my creative journey on my blog Sculpting A Life

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