Who­ever said lists are point­less hasn’t made one

Khaleej Times - - OPINION -

Is­tart my day with a to-do list and cof­fee. Both help me think straight and sug­gest I am in con­trol. I use pens and mark­ers — dif­fer­ent nib styles and colours — and a shim­mery plan­ner to keep track. The day I leave the plan­ner at home, I suf­fer from anx­i­ety. A lot of peo­ple around me also make lists. My col­league has a black and white board, smaller than a post­card. She scrib­bles thought for the day on it — dif­fer­ent lan­guage each day. Last week it read Les Folies, French for ‘Let there be mad­ness/crazi­ness’. It’s her way of learn­ing a new lan­guage and ex­pres­sion, she says. On the other side, she makes notes of things to be done dur­ing the day: work and univer­sity as­sign­ments, mostly. A few oth­ers use the no-fuss yel­low post-it, past­ing them onto the side of their com­puter screens. Then there are the dig­i­tal sticky notes on the lap­tops, where the type­face re­sem­bles the hand­writ­ing font.

Most of us love lists; we make them the pre­vi­ous day or at the start of the new one. Stud­ies and ob­ser­va­tions sug­gest they help us stay fo­cused and or­gan­ised. They help us jug­gle chores and in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity. It’s our way of mak­ing sense of the day.

Pick up laun­dry. Buy eggs. Sub­mit ar­ti­cle by 3pm. Re­ply to M’s e-mail. Book flight tick­ets. Work on the PPT, be­fore EOD. Most lists in­clude items like the above. They’re work-cen­tric and our re­minder of daily goals and tasks.

The list is the ori­gin of cul­ture. It’s part of the his­tory of art and lit­er­a­ture. What does cul­ture want? To make in­fin­ity com­pre­hen­si­ble.

How­ever, there are the other types of lists, too — let’s call them the ran­dom type or the se­cret ones. These hold things that we all need to at­tend to, but al­ways over­look. Goals and tasks that aren’t nec­es­sary on the sur­face but mean some­thing to us. I’ll leave you with a few ex­am­ples from lists of those, who let me look through theirs. Wear the old jump­suit. Call mum. Un­sub­scribe from real es­tate e-mails. Go for a jog. Think about get­ting a cat. Talk to the plants. Sit straight. Write po­etry. Never miss a Zumba class. Read the book­marked ar­ti­cle on green smooth­ies. Sleep early, eight hours min­i­mum. Ar­range hol­i­day pic­tures in fold­ers. At­tend ev­ery art ex­hi­bi­tion in town. Watch the kids sleep. Say no to the fancy party in­vite and spend day in PJs, et al.

Our brains and souls re­spond well to such ran­dom­ness. In the words of Ital­ian nov­el­ist, lit­er­ary critic, and philoso­pher Um­berto Eco, ‘the list is the ori­gin of cul­ture. It’s part of the his­tory of art and lit­er­a­ture. What does cul­ture want? To make in­fin­ity com­pre­hen­si­ble… And how, as a hu­man be­ing does one face in­fin­ity? How does one at­tempt to grasp the in­com­pre­hen­si­ble? Through lists…’

Well, I can safely say that who­ever said lists are point­less didn’t ever make one, es­pe­cially the se­cret one. Also, there is no greater plea­sure than cross­ing off items from there. Here are a few items from my lat­est ran­dom list. Drink only fresh mint tea. Call G and re­mind her to send me pic­tures of my niece and nephew. Check out the weather in Poland in win­ter months, just like that. Em­brace bad hair days. Light pretty can­dles, fi­nally.

Do draw out one of yours. Load it with all that you think is un­nec­es­sary, it will make you happy.


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