From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Monday, January 13, 2014

How Lists Might Be Enabling Procrastination

I've come to a helpful but uncomfortable realization.

I love lists. Huge list fan. I make them all the time, and in all sorts of places. I love consolidating lists of things I need to do, and I can't function unless all my ideas and to-do's are organized in neat little lists. I keep lists of projects I'm working on, possible projects to work on, daily social media goals, all sorts of things.

And I'm realizing that my list-making might be enabling my tendency to procrastinate.

This realization only happened the other night, actually. It happened because I was sitting at my computer (as I do. Frequently.) and an idea came to my head for possible collaborative work. I thought to myself, this could end up working out very cool, I should get in touch with these people and see if this idea could work. Then my next thought was, I'll put that on my list.

That's where the problem is. There was literally nothing stopping me from finalizing ideas and sending off emails right that second, but my mind is so "list-centric" that my natural tendency was to mentally file the idea away in the appropriate cabinet. Whereupon it would most likely stay, becoming covered in dust and cobwebs.

So instead, I got off my lazy butt (metaphorically, not physically. I was still sitting on the couch) and took care of the idea immediately, instead of procrastinating it till later. And you know what? I have not one, but two possible projects resulting from the communication. (More on that to come).

Lists are still my favorite thing, and of course, they are still incredibly useful. My point is that, like, say, the internet, they can be an incredibly useful tool or nothing more than a distraction. I'm seeing how I've occasionally let lists enable my bad habits, and now that I'm aware of it, I'm going to do my best to avoid letting that happen.

So here's to lists, may we use them wisely!

Sarah Allen

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  1. I like to make a list only because it is satisfying to cross things off. But my list-making is not usually connected to writing, except when I make a prospective "agent list". Then crossing items off is not as much fun

  2. I never really thought about that, but as a list-maker myself I now realize I'm making the same mistake.

  3. hahahhaha...I am a listmaker. I always have been. I tend to write lists to organise my mind because there is so much in there flying around at different tangents. This post couldnt have come at a better time as I have started a new list as a spreadsheet. It has currently 25 columns of various areas that need my attention. One column ic called writing - so is an umbrella for all writing. I put it down to being a control freak perfectionist with a hideous memory. Sometimes lists are distractions, but I felt somewhat vindicated the other week when i read an article about how people who make lists are more likely to achieve more than those who dont. Obviously, this is completely subjective and I dont believe it for a second however, I let myself believe it for a little bit when i write my lists!

  4. You're right - easier to just do it than put it on a list. I made a list once. Then promptly lost it...

  5. Well, there are things that get added to the list that never get crossed off. I have a few of those right now, I just keep pushing them off. I do agree with you that just doing something while you are motivated can be more productive then adding it to the list.

  6. I think it's okay to stick it on a list as long as you're actively working on something else on the same list. That's what I tell myself anyway.

    Moody Writing

  7. I am a list addict. I have lists everywhere. I get made fun of for my lists, but like Kate. N, my lists help me control all the thoughts in my head. Whenever I do something that isn't on one of the lists, I feel a little disappointed that I didn't get to cross it off. The completed lists help me feel like I'm doing something instead of running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

  8. I love my lists, too.

    Hugs and chocolate!

  9. My lists are like those strips of extra memory cards you used to put in older computers. External memory. Cause the internal memory just isn't sufficient anymore.

  10. I like lists, but not to the point of not doing anything. Couldn't live without a shopping list though.

  11. I used to be a chronic procrastinator (if that's a word). But I've found a few ways to finally overcome procrastination. If you're interested I've written a short article, which I've linked below.

  12. I'm not a listaholic but I do tend to make them before a big event (like a vacation, or someone coming to visit or a before giving birth) It's actually kind of fun to find my old lists and realize how hung up I got on small details that didn't even matter much in the long run.

  13. I tend to agree that lists are a way of putting off things; for example, get root canal, schedule endoscopy, go Christmas shopping. Usually not for things such as write another prize winning poem.

  14. I'm a big list person myself! I just discovered this ColorNote app and I've been listing away. ;) But I'm super anal and depend on lists to make sure I'm not forgetting anything, because I want to get all the things done NOW. It's a problem.

  15. Lists - good. Especially on multi-colored post-its.


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