How To Make Lists:
1. Be Creative. – Instead of writing ‘To-Do’ at the top of your list, write ‘Get It Done!’. It’s fun, and will motivate you to do the tasks listed below.
2. Keep it to 5. – There’s a reason Rob Fleming from High Fidelity had a Top Five list for everything in his life, when most people will go for a rounder, seemingly logical, ten. It’s simple. If you list 10 things, you’re less likely to do all of them. 2-3, or maybe 5-6 if the tasks are somewhat easy. Keep it to 5, really important as well as quite easy ones, and you’d be less tasked in doing them.
3. Stop when you should. Don’t go on listing things, just because it gives the impression of accomplishing something, instead of being a signifier of things to be accomplished. I’ve run out of ideas on how to make lists, and so I’m stopping now.
And back to old habits, i.e. writing essays as blog posts. I don’t remember the exact term for this, but for some sort of intelligence test a long time ago, I tested as someone who looks at the bigger picture, and improvises their way through it, rather than plan step by step and work through a list of tasks. In creative paradigms for writing, I guess I’d be a SOTP (‘seat of the pants’) worker, as opposed to an outliner. It’s strange to realise that, because I’ve always been a list-maker, to various degrees of obsession. And, I believe, if you can do them well, you can do well in life.
Of course, you can find listmakers who are accomplished, just as easily as non-listmakers who are also accomplished. You can divide them into right-brain, left-brain people (which one’s which?), entrepreneurs and artists etc. But, that’s too much of a generalization. Surely, there must have been entrepreneurs who went about building their business in an improvisational way, as well as artists who may prefer a more structured approach to songwriting or mural painting. Even if we don’t realise it, or classify it, most of us must have an unconscious, habitual approach to doing things we tend to do repeatedly. And even if we didn’t, most of us keep wishing we could be more organized. We keep wishing we could write great lists, and stick to them.
Of course, there can be all sorts of lists, not just To-Do lists. Recently, I found myself idly watching list videos on Youtube, on everything from music, films, food and gossipy stuff. Even for stuff I don’t know anything about (such as top ten reasons why some popstar is hated), I felt curious in two ways: were these reasons subjective to the listmaker, and thus, not something listable in any order? and secondly, why was I watching it? What did I accomplish by going through a list of things this person has supposedly done, when I had never even listened to their music?
I think I’ve cracked it. No matter how absurd the list, a list, by virtue of its nature, makes anything important. My to-do lists are boring, embarrassing, and generally not well ticked-off. But, they heighten the worth of something to me: 1) Exercise 2) Wash clothes 3) Return pyjamas….478) Find purpose in life.*
If I had to be a blogger, back when I was not a blogger, I’d probably have been a book/music/film blogger. Listmaking is common practice in that, even if to inspire outrage and dissent among readers. Some can get ugly and controversial, but there are plenty of listmakers who do it very well. Stephen1001 writes an excellent music blog itself based on a list – 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. But, the excellence (and the difference) of the blog lies in how original the lists are, and his incorporating other media for assessment, such as graphs.
I have often thought about taking up a similar list-based project. There are 1001 Books, 1001 Films, the Goodreads Listopia, something called Listography which has all kinds of list-based projects. I did think about doing something like first impressions of 366 albums at the start of 2016, mainly depending on various music-streaming services. It seems easy and original, but it lacked doability, because it’s scary how difficult it is to take out 40 minutes in a day to listen to a new album, with a certain amount of attention that does it justice.
Thus, despite making the bulk of the literature on the internet, and deceiving us all into feeling more organized, listmaking is not a one-size-fits-all, wonder cure for our chaotic lives. I am more productive when I improvise my way through things, even if I forget more than half of them, because I did not write them down with numbers next to them. But, if this blog had been a listy blog, it would not have been listed on your social media today, or for a long, long time before.
Do you like making lists? What kind of lists are they?
Some lists on this blog:
Top Fifteen Autobiographical Albums
*Yes, that is a joke.