Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I made a list. Sometimes it just comes to that. People who don't make lists mock list-making, so I want to stop you right there. I made a list of 13 things and by the end of the weekend I had accomplished and crossed out twelve of them. I showed the crossed-off list to Mrs. Ditchman on a Sunday night before bedtime and she took a step back, thought for a second, and then said, "Wow. That's pretty good."

So I was very proud of myself. The next day I made another list, starting with the one thing I didn't accomplish from the previous list. This list had about twenty things on it, so I had substantially upped the ante. But I was overconfident, and only got to cross off about half of them. Discouraged, I did not show Mrs. Ditchman this list.

After about two weeks, I had it down to two uncrossed things, so I made a new list. It's Thursday now, and I don't think I've got anything crossed off.

I believe I made a few mistakes with this list. Some of the things were just too big. I mean, you can't write MAKE MONEY on the list. Oh, it's a good idea and all, but it has no place on a list. I mean, when are you ever gonna realistically be able to cross that one off?

Another mistake is putting things on the list like REMODEL BATHROOM. Yes, we all agree that it's something that definitely needs to be done, but a list like that needs to be framed and nailed to a wall. I mean, you're gonna have that list around for a couple years.

Third mistake: putting weekly chores on the list. Unless you're certain the entire list can be accomplished, signed off, and thrown away, don't put FILL YARD WASTE BIN on the list. Because if you fill the yard waste bin and then cross it off the list, and then you don't finish the list in a week, your just gonna have to write that on  the list again. And then you're stuck in a Mobius Loop with the list. A Mobius List. It's what you're always in when it comes to things like household chores, loving your spouse, and weight loss. 

The key to a good list is to put really simple things on it. Not things you were going to do anyway, but things that you've been meaning to do but only take about twenty minutes. This way, you can rationalize "wasting" twenty minutes on something for the sheer purpose or goal of crossing the thing off the list. Because the whole goal of making a list is to be able to successfully and righteously cross things off the list. It's more satisfying than doing the task, really. Hey, you could be crossing something off a list right now, but here you are reading this. STOP. Whatever you're doing, put READ SEAN'S DUMB BLOG on your list right now, read the following few paragraphs, and then cross it off the list. You'll feel much better.

When I was in kindergarten, I lived up the street from a guy named John Goddard. Maybe you've heard of him. I met him once or twice, when I was a kid, and I remember him speaking at my school, my church, the local library. My mom knew him, and I think my older sisters went to high school with his kids. Anyway, for all the awesome things John Goddard eventually became famous for, he will be most remembered for his List. When he was fifteen he made a list of 127 things. A big list! Anyway, he's about 90 years old now, and has crossed off 109 of them. Here's the list. Best list ever.

I'm not that ambitious. I've got things on the list like REPAIR SIDE GATE and FIX DINING ROOM PICTURE FRAME and ADD LAWN SPRINKLER. But I'm gonna do these things. I'm gonna do all of them. And then I'm gonna cross them all off the list, crumple it up in my fist and toss it in the trash. Take that John Goddard! Ha! I finished my list! Let's just see you get to the South Pole at your advanced age!

After I throw the list away, I won't ever have to think about those things again, and this is not to be underestimated. I've found over the years that I spend more energy fretting about all the things that need to be done around here, than I do when I actually do the thing. As you get older, you find you need to conserve energy. And if the only way to do it is to fake yourself out and make a list, and then make crossing the things off the list more important than the actual things on it, then it's worth it. Because none of this stupid stuff really matters in the long run, anyway. Save your energy for the important things in life. The unexpected stuff. The serious stuff. You're gonna need energy for all that.

If all of life was simply about crossing things off a list, I think we'd all be happier people. No, seriously.