Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Let us list

I am a compulsive list maker. My family, my colleagues and friends will vouch for the fact as every day, I make several lists manually and electronically. I list out things to do- things to buy on my way back home, things to pack for vacations, things to complete in the weekend and even things I have to discuss with boss when I go to his room. That’s not all -I also make lists of books to read, movies to download, places to visit.....even people to meet when I go to my hometown next. Something like the movie "Dasvidania" I also have a dream list of things to do before I die. 
          Now with years of this habit,  I realise that in the habit of list making- likes attract likes. Many of my friends on facebook make lists of “50 random things about me”, “6 great books to read” , “5 people who changed the world” etc etc. I get forward mails on - things to keep yourself fit, “ things you should not say to children”, “ Top 10 motivational quotes”, “Top 10 Codes You Aren't Meant to Know” etc . I even subscribe to Man booker award’s short lists and long lists in my email. When we get transferred from a city to another , I made list of stuff in each box and then a list of boxes too. While hosting friends for a meal, I list out the dishes and also the tasks one day before. My friends believe that my life is lived from one list to the other. But well, I love making lists!

And come on, I am not the only one. Every day parlance is littered with lists: laundry, grocery, shopping, honey-do, to-do. In fact buried deep in the fine print of every wedding is a clause that legally enables the creation of the “Honey-Do” list. For those not familiar with it (read: all unmarried men), the “Honey-Do” list is a compilation of tasks, chores, repairs, and improvements that wives would like their husbands to accomplish.( Quite obviously, the list never dies...but then, we can’t stop hoping , can we?) My hubby gets it quite frequently. I would never understand what is so irritating about a list. I mean, don’t they make lists in business and work too. I read somewhere that when Dick Cheney was asked by then-presidential candidate George Bush to find him a suitable running mate, Cheney did what any decent man would  do: He drew up a short list. Incidentally I do the same whenever, my better half asks me what I need on my next birthday – I make a long and a short list . Needless to say he hates my “listing- everything” habit . I keep telling him that actually it’s not that bad. Lists, looking rationally, really get to the heart of what it is we need to do to get through another day on this planet.
But of all the lists I make, the most frequent ones are obviously my shopping lists. Interestingly enough, most of the days either do not find the list (in my bag) or do not consult it when I reach market. Still it’s a comfort to know that a list is there somewhere. While shopping for veggies or groceries, I am usually governed by my mood, the colours and aroma. In no time my bags are full with an assortment of eatable I do not know what I am gonna do with. Still it is very satisfying feeling to see them on my kitchen counter. Once I have brought them, I will find a way to use them.

That in short shows how lists are useful- and how they are not useful. They do not actually dictate us in our lives but they do help in organising, in turning the vague subject in finite doable tasks. Most of the time they are just a comfort thread for us to resort in case of crisis. With the coming of electronic lists, we need not even carry the lists physically with us. My to-do list features prominently on my iGoogle homepage – is just a click away where ever I am.

A friend who is mother of two and a list making enthusiast once told me that she makes the list so that end of the day crossing all/most of the entries would give her a feeling of “day- well – lived” . Another one argues that without lists her life is chaotic, unorganised but less stressful. She feels the burden of completing everything on the list before the end of the day. I think both of them have a point . But for me , lists are often a method to day dream. Imagine ticking even one entry on my dream list of places to visit – it fills you with so much of happiness, the feeling of achievement and satisfaction.

It’s kind of heartening to find that I am not alone in this list –making business. Every day in malls, in office corridors and even in books I find people mentioning lists or referring to it. With so many widgets and websites for making lists – I am sure the tribe of list-makes is prospering. Internet infomrs me that notable list makers include Thomas Jefferson, Peter Mark Roget, Martha Stewart and Benjamin Franklin. Franklin biographer Walter Isaacson even noted that, "Franklin loved making lists. He made lists of rules for his tradesmen's club, of synonyms for being drunk, of maxims for matrimonial happiness and of reasons to choose an older woman as a mistress. Most famously, as a young man, he made a list of personal virtues that he determined should define his life." All these just give me hopes to excel further in this habit .
The other day I read an article criticising the "pop culture epidemic" of making Top ten lists of everything. The arguement was that the authority with which the ranking is done is not established . If you ask me, I wouldn't care much for the authority. VEry frequently while searching movies of a particular period or genre I love to search out these lists made by random people. If Ilike them its okay, and if I don't then I discard . But experience says that if you go through 4-5 lists on a particular subject the individual bias can be removed to a large extent. I mean , how else one would digg out the best movies shot in Tuscany or Best mystery books of 1950s?
Now before I go back to my work, I must tick off " Publish blog post " on my Today's do list .


MARCH said...

List making habit makes us more human. What I realize these days that being animal is more in fashion. The motto of the new generation is: Loose control! Except for the “Honey-Do” list, which is about changing the other person, we should not hesitate to prepare any list that helps us change ourselves, limit our unending demands to a few etc. I don’t understand why your hubby is against it. A list is more than just a management tool. It helps you make commitment to yourself. A list is a must for impulsive buyers. Many a times, we for shopping with our friends to give them company and come back with more purchases than them! Only after reaching home we find that most of the things bought were unnecessary and there was something else on which the same money could have been spent.
On a lighter vein I would like to add that your job of auditing too is a list making business: listing top risky offices to be audited, listing their top errors and wrong doings to be brought to the notice of the public…
With so less time to live and so many things to do, it’s better to refer to the top ten list of everything and move on with the faith that we relished the best in the category. To me these top n lists do not signify any epidemic but the zeal to share what one liked after tasting hundreds of items in the category. Though it is quite understood not all of them are prepared with due care and labour, I agree to your view that if you go through 4-5 lists on a particular subject the individual bias can be removed to a large extent.

Atoorva said...

@ March -Delighted to find you reading my posts again. I am so infrequent in writing these days that I thought I definitely lost you .

MARCH said...

: ) Delighted to know that you value me as a reader so much. After all, a person is afraid of loosing only valuable things? Thanks for valuing me so much as a reader. I am more infrequent than you as a blogger : ) My last post was published more than one year ago : (