I admit… kicking and screaming all the way…
the time has come for making lists


There’s a funny thing about making lists inside the house. And basically, the joke involves needing to add make-a-list as an item on the to-do list but consistently forgetting to write it down.

Not quite a joke… not quite funny ha-ha… but funny in the general nod of agreement and understanding the thought generates. If there’s nothing handy to write on, it’s way too easy to convince yourself you’ll remember (only to be frustrated later by remembering there was something you needed to remember but you can’t remember it).

Seems like lists match up quite nicely with good intentions… everyone seems to agree they have their place, provided that don’t prove problematic. A list for the grocery store? Absolutely. Writing tools on the counter, begin opening the fridge and cabinets to go over things, and have at it. Get out of the chair just to write down a reminder for butter or to call mom? Nah. We pretty much all decide that we’ll remember the butter when the time comes.

And then we don’t.

Honestly, I’m no stranger to lists in several forms. For years, I’ve been subjected to some version of a honey-do list. I’ve also tried to map out a day of adventures when planning something like a shopping trip that involves a long drive… sort of a “well, if we’re driving up to fill-in-the-blank-city, while we’re there we should fill-in-the-blank-errand” reminder when it would prove incredibly aggravating or inconvenient to return home without something.

For me, the ultimate acceptance of needing lists occurred a few weeks ago when working on some things around the house. The problem that tipped the scales involved focus… as I was spinning wildly out of control moving from one thing to the next without completing much of anything.

The day started out with some projects lined up that seemed to be easy enough. I was going to do some work outside, checking an electrical outlet and looking at the gutters. There were a couple of phone calls I needed to make to follow up on some things. And I also needed to grab a few items at the store so I could make dinner. Quick cup of coffee, and the day began…

In the garage, I went to grab the ladder so I could work on the gutters, and I saw an empty gas can. I was planning one last run with the lawn mower later that week, and also wanted to have some on hand for the snow blower and inevitable arrival of snow that was almost certainly approaching far sooner than I wanted to believe. With that run to the store planned a bit later that morning, I moved the gas can near the door of the garage so I would have it when I went for groceries.

Stepping outside, I found it warmer than I was expecting. In addition to ditching the sweatshirt I had on, I thought it might be nice to get one more load of laundry dried on the line. But, the days were already significantly shorter, so that idea only made sense if I got the laundry done right away.

Rather than leading you through a long narrative, we can wrap things up with a nice summary: I did fix the outlet, but had to go out twice when I forgot the grocery list the first time in my rush to fetch a new GFCI outlet to replace the old one. I managed to forget the empty gas can twice because I went to the car from a different door than I normally do, and, I think the laundry I put in may still be in the washer since I never did remember to put it on the line.

The weird part is that none of these chores really required much of a list. (Well, except the groceries. Different list.) But as a whole they are a really good demonstration of how I manage to get distracted while attacking projects. One minute I’m reaching for a ladder and picking up a gas can instead, and a few hours later I’m kicking myself for again forgetting the gas can that hadn’t even been on my radar while rinsing out a coffee mug earlier that morning.

I had all sorts of other examples lined up to include in this essay, some of which I think would have been even more impressive in support of my point, and… yeah… I never wrote any of them down. And therein lies my problem.

It’s a combination of believing something is so good, obvious or important that I couldn’t possibly forget it, and in some fashion becoming distracted for long enough that I indeed forget it. And since I’m unfortunately blessed with a really good memory for most things, no matter how many things I forget to do I keep convincing myself that those moments are exceptions.

The times are changing though.

This morning I had to go out, realized I could use some loose change on my errands, and while walking literally fifteen feet from grabbing my cars keys to the jar with the change in it I forgot why I was walking across the kitchen.

Nothing amazing happened during the walk. There is no good excuse. I simply realized I could use about fifty-cents or so, turned, picked up my keys from the counter, started walking, and by the time I was passing the kitchen table I was asking myself “Why did I come over here?” and wondering if I was just in the wrong spot and had forgotten to put something back in the fridge.

And so, it’s time.

I used to laugh at Terry. She had bought a few sets of reading glasses and placed them in various spots around the house. With the bills… next to the chair she usually sits in while watching television… near the computer… in the door on the passenger side of the car… and a few other spots including in her purse. She has a total of eight pairs stashed around the house. And when one pair has been misplaced or broken, she has been known to pick up two pairs as a replacement.

No more laughing though. I need to grab some pens and a few pads of paper. I need to place them around the house. And I need to write things down.

This should make me more efficient. Might even nudge me into writing more often if I can get into the habit of jotting out a few notes about some thoughts I have for possible projects. I just wonder if I need to add a line onto each list reminding to check all of the other notepads. (And maybe make a list to remind me where the pads are.)

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com