Knowing When to Ditch the List

I love organization – closet systems, filing cabinets, mail sorters, calendaring programs…and lists.  I love lists.  Or rather, I should say I loved lists.

Organization and lists are awesome, most of the time.  They help set goals, remember things, narrow the focus, record memories, and so much more.  Lists can be fun – I’m a huge believer in the Stickie Note list.  For example, slap that sticky sucker onto the inside of my purse and it doesn’t go missing before I get to the grocery store.

But…my listing kind of ran away with me recently.  I had lists on my iPhone, using the Stickies App on my computer, within my iCal, on Stickie Notes around my house.  I had lists within lists – not just a “grocery list,” but instead a “Costco grocery list,” “HEB grocery list,”  “Central Market grocery list,” and even an “other groceries” list.  Long term goal lists.  Short term goal lists.  Financial lists.  And I could really just keep naming all of the lists I found myself making.

OK, so making multiple lists – no big deal, right?  Sure.  Except that I found myself becoming, er…rather attached to my lists.  So when a friend asked me to dinner at a restaurant that wasn’t on my Austin list or my restaurant list, I had an internal meltdown that I would be spending time and money on someplace not on my, you guessed it, lists.  And it kind of went like this for an embarrassingly long while with me feeling stressed about deviating from these rigid plans I had all written down.

Not cool.  And definitely not spontaneous.  Nor relaxing.

So, in a moment of sanity preservation, I threw out my lists.  OK, not all of them.  I kept my Austin Bucket List.  I mean, that’s a list of things I really do want to keep track of and see/do while I’m here.  I also kept a “must remember” list so that I didn’t forget to do things like buy my dog’s heart medication (that one is obviously kind of important).

And guess what happened?

Life suddenly got a lot more spontaneous and a lot more fun.  I said yes to an unlisted, un-calendared night out with a new friend and had by far the best cocktail I’ve ever had.  I ended up leaving the grocery store without an ingredient I had planned, but ended up grabbing a random Kashi pizza on the way out…and loved it.  I canceled a dance class to go (ironically) dancing with a girl from my dance studio and met some of the most confident and fun women ever.  I said yes to a last minute lunch at a restaurant not on my list, but ended up taking a walk over to a place that (yes!) was on my Austin Bucket List.

I still love lists.  I am, after all, an attorney, Scorpio, goal-making, organizing, calendaring woman.  But need to remind myself that lists are there to decrease stress and, if they’re not doing their job, then it’s time to ditch the lists.

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