Saturday, April 12, 2008


I'm a big fan of lists.

I've always been a list maker. I can remember in high school making notebooks full of lists of my favorite songs and books, keeping track of the "top 100" songs (or whatever the number was then) and writing down the lyrics to songs. After that, I think my listmaking kind of tapered off, and I relied on my memory.

I recall waking up in the middle of the night and thinking of the things I needed to remember over and over, hoping that I would remember them by the time I woke up. For awhile, I was using a techniqiue that I read about once, where you create a word with the first letters of the list of things you're trying to remember. Like, if you need to buy tomatoes, oranges, butter and soda, you'd only have to remember TOBS, and hopefully you'd remember what each of the letters represented.

I still sometimes do that, especially in the grocery store; I also sometimes just keep a short list in my head as I walk around the store and just repeat it to myself over and over: "tomatoes, bread, toothpaste, napkins." Then as I pick up each item, it drops off the list. If I have a long list, I'll carry a paper list or, more often, my Palm, and check things off as I get them.

Eventually I got smart and put a notepad and pen on my bedside table. When I woke up and thought of something, I only had to write it down. Sometime after that I graduated to a lighted pen. For awhile, I was waking up and writing down my dreams, and I really enjoyed that, but for whatever reason, I don't seem to remember them very much anymore.

But I do still use the pad and pen beside my bed. I find it's most useful right after I go to bed, before I go to sleep. It saves me having to get up and write something down, or worse, forget things. If I can write something down, I don't have to try to remember it, and I can go to sleep. It's very freeing. It's like a "memory dump." Now I have a lighted notepad rather than a lighted pen -- the light comes on when the pen is pulled out of its slot.

The "notepad" is actually a plastic box that's loaded with a stack of 3x5 cards. If I have written things on a card, I can slip it out of the holder and take it with me. I keep a 3x5 card holder in my purse (similar to this one), and I can just tuck the card in there, and I'm good to go. Or, of course, sometimes I just write something down on the card that needs to go in my PDA; either way, it lets me keep track of things with ease.

When I was at Barnes & Noble during the weeks before Christmas, I ran across a book called To-Do List, by Sasha Cagen. The subtitle is, "From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us." The books contains 100 lists of various kinds, from grocery lists to lists of New Year's resolutions, to "life lists," all sent in by regular people. It's fascinating, a glimpse into someone else's life.

I didn't buy the book then, and when I decided I wanted it, I couldn't find it again. And Borders didn't stock it. I finally got it last week when I ordered a book from Amazon for Bob, and needed to add something to the order to get free shipping. I sat and read it while I was eating lunch today at Chipotle, and made a few lists in my notebook, too.

I have lists of books to read (helpful in the bookstore), lists of movies to rent, a list of things to remember to pack for trips--the things I tend to forget, or the things that I thought of the last time I went somewhere. I just started a Christmas list for ideas of things to buy or make, and I have a list of favorite suppliers for my jewelry supplies. I can never remember which place stocks the particular things I like, but now I can.

Lists just make my life easier.

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