Gary Brown: A lot of life is listed

Gary Brown

This column appeared on a list of things I need to do at work.

That list resulted from a list I had the other day that included an entry, “Make a list of things to do at work.” The initial list also included entries that said, “Make a list of things to do at home,” “Make a list of things to do outside in the yard,” “Make a list of things to do while I’m on errands,” and “Make a list of miscellaneous things to do.”

I don’t have a lot in my life that isn’t listed.

I’ve listed all my life. I was sorting through a trunk a while back and uncovered a handful of papers I’d saved from my childhood for no apparent reason. One was a list of Christmas gifts I’d planned to purchase for parents and siblings. Only about half were crossed out. I hope that was just a preliminary list.

I make multiple lists. I keep continual lists. I constantly change my lists. When I believe I have crossed enough things off my list to make me tired — “Wow, look at all the things on my list I’ve completed” — I sit down a moment and allow myself a brief moment of satisfaction. Then I re-list the remaining items. The list becomes untouched again, just daunting enough to give me a boost of energy or depressing enough to send me to bed. Either way I get out of the chair.

I don’t prioritize my lists. As I think of something I should do, I list it. I suppose it would be preferable to think of something to do and then go do it. But I’m a list maker. It gives me goals.

And why should I bother to put the things on my lists in order of importance? I don’t follow the order of the lists anyway. I skip around on lists. It makes me feel spontaneous, carefree, and independent. If I have something listed to do 24th today, and get it out of the way third, I appear to myself to be unpredictable, in a deliberate, organized, fully-listed sort of way.

I know people who don’t list. They just carry all this information around in their heads — appointments, tasks, responsibilities — and can call it to mind almost at will. They will go on and on in a conversation about having specific errands to run, appointments to make, job duties to perform, family events to celebrate, home projects to complete, entertainment events to attend, and long-range goals to achieve.

Aside from the fact that such a conversation provides me with way too much information, it also demonstrates to me awe-inspiring list-less organizational skills.

I would have needed three paper lists, an envelope list, a napkin with things listed on it, a couple of things listed on a sticky note, three things listed on the front page of my newspaper, and a little list of dates I scribbled on my palm with a gel pen to remember all that.

I need help for a long list of reasons.

Contact Canton Repository writer Gary Brown at gary.brown@cantonrep.com