This evening, I’m intrigued to find my nine-year-old daughter preparing for a playdate in a very grown-up way: she’s made an action list.
I thought I was the only one in our household to use this method to try to squeeze more tasks into the day than time allows. Action lists, shopping lists, book lists – I’m constantly finding scribbled strips of paper stuffed in pockets and handbags that I’ve promptly forgotten without completing.
Even so, the act of writing down my plans gives me the illusion that I will at some point complete them. This is in spite of my self-scolding mantra: “The best way to get something done is to do it” – chanted to remind myself to stop messing about and get on with it.
Sometimes my lists are thoughtfully numbered in priority order or prefaced with egalitarian bullet-points, to deem no one item more important than the others. Either way, jotting the items down gives me the illusion that I’m in control of my hectic life. They usually contain at least 10 points.
I was therefore taken aback recently to hear an excellent management trainer declare that no action list should be bigger than a Post-it Note. My friend, who masterminds A4, Excel-formated to-do lists to manage all aspects of her life, was equally aghast. When it comes to to-do lists, less is apparently more.
But it’s not the size of my daughter’s action list that impresses me: it’s the breadth and ambition of her planned tasks. Whereas mine is full of practical mundanities that I am not looking forward to completing (place grocery order, do ironing, buy school uniform), her neat, bullet-pointed list is positively adventurous:
- travel back in time
- get ship-wrecked
- start an animal hotel
She pays no heed to boring time constraints, budget, nor the rules of nature. I am dazzled by her exciting prospects. Her to-do list certainly puts mine in the shade.
As Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it. Just remember this whole thing was started by a mouse.” I reckon my problem is that I’ve not been dreaming enough. So I’ve put my old action list in the bin, and I’ll share with you my new list of things to do today – all the stuff of my dreams:
- become fluent in a language that uses pictograms instead of lettters
- have lunch with George Orwell and Gerald Durrell
- discover the secret of how to become invisible
- take a trip on a real flying carpet
And even better, I can fit it my new list easily on to a Post-it note! So what are your plans for today?
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