Posted in Of Psyche

Of Making Lists

To Do List on Smartphone

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.

Rob in High Fidelity

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.

‘Handwritten’ List: We’ve all been there!

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?

To Do List Journal

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.

Music Listography courtesy:

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:

How To Be A Better Writer

How To Procrastinate

Top Fifteen Autobiographical Albums
*Yes, that is a joke.


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

14 thoughts on “Of Making Lists

  1. Many thanks for the kind words Amrita!
    Love those high fidelity top 5s. I was actually going to make a to do list later today but I will now be making a get it done list instead!

    1. My pleasure! Sometimes, I wish I had your talent with graphs – it would make much more sense out of all my rambling! And you do write a creative, balanced, non-sexist music blog, which is a rare thing!

  2. Any attempts I make at writing lists are often scuppered by not having enough slots. I agree that 5 is the best…but then when someone asks me my top 5 albums, I think of at least 7 more by the time I write down my fourth choice! So then I redefine it and say my top 5 country albums (for arguments sake), where the same thing will happen, again and again! Like Rob Fleming, I just keep finding a new turn for the lists to go. I bet I could do a list of top 5 reasons why you can never make a good list, and come up with 50!

    1. You know what Robert, I don’t find that hard to believe in your case! And I’m glad you don’t make lists, because it is hard to come by a well-written, non-prejudiced, non-controversial music blog. I could write opinionated, controversial things myself, but I’m not naturally inclined that way. However, I still believe there is a place to “discuss” things, trying to include as many things as possible for consideration, without pitting one against the other. People do that, even in a mild form, with lists because (as I’ve discovered watching endless WatchMojo top ten videos) such lists can make a person very angry! List-making in pop culture is a judgement in itself, and no position in the list is ever quite agreed upon by two people. Please stick to paragraphs. Paragraphs aren’t all bad!

      1. I like how you put that! And yes, though I play the game on a music forum I belong to, I would never write about a list. Doing so could definitely lead to some negativity-“You’re crazy…how could you not include X…how do you think Y is better than Z…that sort of thing. I do relish the fact that so much of what I write about is outside the mainstream, or at least, outside the mainstream of the US. It feels more natural to me to explore the things that haven’t been done to death by every music writer out there. I like that I can get people behind a band or a style of music they have never heard before, which is getting to be the case these days I feel. So I’ll be definitely sticking to the paragraphs!

      2. Sorry for being sooo late in replying! I’ve been awfully busy and awfully tired. I can understand the appeal of music top five/ten lists. Maybe it’s a habit for those of us who came from a culture of top tens, i.e. from magazines or even watching the Billboard Hot 100. I devoutly watched that, and listened to Top of the Pops as a teenager. Pitting one artist against another just becomes naturalized, and feels like an important step towards appreciation. It seems like it can’t be helped!

      3. No worries, and I suspect you are right. I used to listen or watch countdown shows up until I moved away from pop essentially and it probably stems from that. Incidentally, I have a new post up with some photos from Ireland. Think you said you wanted to see some!

  3. I’m getting by on making lists for absolutely everything these days, amazing how effective it is. Ticking off a list item is the best and you’re right about listing things making them important!

  4. I’ll still make shopping lists. I’ve found that if I don’t, then I end up with a cart full of things that I don’t need while forgetting about all the things that I did need. And a few weeks before my kids start school I will make a list of all the things they will need: backpack, new shoes, new pants, a ruler, etc.
    Lists may never look like much to a person who never makes a list, but I find them to be incredibly handy. 🙂

    1. I used to make my own school lists! I was more organized before, and sometimes I come across lists in old diaries from school and college, and can’t imagine how detailed they are. I NEVER shop without lists now, as I always forget whatever I haven’t written down. Even if it’s just one thing!

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