I t all started innocently enough. Years ago, when I forgot to do something important and it cost me a bunch of money, I started leaving notes to myself.
At first, it was just a little reminder here and there, things like “Pick up mom from bus station,” or “MAIL TAXES, don’t just put a stamp on the envelope and leave it in your car for three months.”
Somewhere along the line, it became an addiction. I got a little taste, I became dependent and the next thing I knew, it was controlling my life. At the height of my addiction, I made a lot of lists. I made grocery lists, which I usually left on the kitchen cupboard next to the bag of empty pop cans. I made a budget. I made a weekly menu, chore list and clothing plan.
When I planned a vacation, my addiction was out of control. I made lists for Things to do (subdivided into Must Do and If Time), Clothes to Pack, Food to Pack (subdivided into Cooler and Picnic Basket), Other Things to Pack, Budget and Other Things to Keep in Mind. I even made a list of my lists.
Within my addiction to list-making was my addiction to crossing things off. This is where I went to the dark side.
When I started making lists, it was to remember things. There was one, maybe two things on the list. Then I started adding things like “get oil changed,” “change furnace filter” and “paint spare bedroom.” Then I started adding routine things like “vacuum,” “wash dishes” and “laundry.”
Every time I finished a task, I crossed it off. There is a huge sense of accomplishment in that. I like that feeling. I started writing down things I had already done just so I could cross it off and get that sense of accomplishment.
Then came the day that I had an extensive to-do list, which I didn’t think I could get through in one day. Lo and behold, however, I crossed everything off the list. I conquered the list. I won! I slept well that night, knowing I was fierce and mighty listcrosser offer.
The next morning, that feeling was gone. And so, I started making longer lists, and obsessing over them. I use the word “obsessing” here because no word exists to truly describe the depth of my obsession.
I’m telling you, if I had 20 things on my list and I accomplished 19, I would toss and turn and fuss and fume over that one thing that I failed to accomplish.
A few weeks ago, I rebranded my to-do list as a ta-da list, where I write down what I’ve done that day. This way, I don’t have that one “to-do” failure taunting me. I still keep a reminder list so I don’t forget to change the furnace filter or pick up mom.
Some days, the ta-da list is lengthy, some days not so much. But every day I can look at it and see that I accomplished something, even if all it says is “I rested.”
Lania Rocha is a reporter for View Newspapers. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.