A Life in Lists

spiralbound notebook

I read a grand wee post over at Me, Mine and Other Bits yesterday about making lists.

I have always been a list-maker. When I was very young, and didn’t actually have anything important to write down, I’d just make lists of things like 10 favourite colours, or 20 tastiest foods, or 30 best Premiership footballers.

(I have dozens of notebooks full of that kind of list, which I must dig out one day because I’m sure they’ll give me a chuckle).

But at university, and then at work, list writing started to become more important, and now as a mother and wife it is how I keep on top of EVERYTHING.

Shortly after having DorkySon, when my brain was so addled by exhaustion and hormones, I wrote a new list every day, and it would genuinely include things like ‘take a shower’ … ‘unload dishwasher’ … ‘cup of tea’. If I got to the end of the day and I’d ticked off everything on the list, it was a massive achievement.

Thankfully, things have progressed a lot since then, but in order to keep the house, my family and myself in some kind of order, I still make a new to-do list every Monday morning. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve got them down to an art form.

It has to be lined A4 paper, and it has to be in blue biro.

On the right hand side at the top, I write a list of the blog posts that I have brewing in my head, that I want to try and get down on paper sometime soon.

On the right hand side at the bottom I write a list of things that I need to buy or order online that week – groceries, birthday flowers, new pyjamas for DorkySon – that kind of thing.

Finally, down the left hand side, I put three headings;


This Week

This Month…

That seems fairly self-explanatory, but it’s not as simple as it looks. That ellipsis is very important.

If I take the time to highlight (in yellow highlighter) an item in the ‘Today’ section then it will actually get done today. Otherwise it’s non-urgent, and it will likely as not get bumped into ‘This Week’.

If I take the time to draw a biro star beside an item in ‘This Week’ then it will actually get done this week. Otherwise, it’ll drop down the list into ‘This Month…’

If an item makes it into ‘This Month…’ there are only two possible outcomes.

Either it will sit there for a month or two before I have a panic one Monday morning and zoom it right back up to the ‘Today’ section (this often happens with thank you cards, tax returns, and renewing household insurance).

Or, after three or four months I will be so sick of it sitting there, languishing at the bottom the list and making me feel guilty, that one Monday I’ll just casually forget to add it and it’ll disappear forever. Like it was never there.

It is always a little sad when an item falls off a list without ever having had a satisfying line drawn through the middle of it; the decisive swipe that signifies it done. But I figure that those items – things like entering a writing competition, or setting up a new social media profile – were not meant to be. We all have to prioritise our time and energy, and making lists helps that happen. If things never make it to the top of the list, then there’s probably a good reason for that.

There is a good Scottish expression – an old one – that Donna from Mummy Central reminded me of the other day. It says ‘What’s for ye, won’t go by ye.

It’s as applicable to lists as it is to life.


Nominations have just opened for this year’s MAD Blog Awards. Last year I was chuffed to pieces that your support saw me end up as a finalist in the Best New Blog category. I’m obviously not eligible for that again, but if you think I deserve to be nominated in another category this year such as Best Blog Writer or Best Family Life Blog you can do so on the MADS website here.

32 responses

  1. I completely live by lists. My head no longer keeps information and so I have to rely on lists. However, my lists have to be in black biro. Black bic biro. I am that specific!

    • Ooh, I got into quite a debate on this on FB last night. A couple of other people said black too. I find black much harder to read it, and the ink tends to be smudgier, so it has to be blue Bics for me!

  2. Aha, you ladies surprise me with your good old pen and paper. I am also an avid list keeper but am gradually using the memo thing on my mobile – especially for blog post ideas that pop in my head while I’m out and about. Whether they get written up is another matter, but pressing that delete button afterwards is just as satisfying as drawing that line through!

    • Ha! Yes, if I am out and about and need to write a list I’ll use the Notes in my phone and then email it to myself. But nothing beats proper pen and paper 🙂 xx

  3. What worries me most is the thought of all those tasks which just drop off my list after so many weeks (you describe it so accurately.) I mean, they must have been important once or how did they make it onto The List in the first place?! Like you, I include things such as “Get up” and “Have shower” just for te satisfaction of being able to cross something – anything! – off the list….

  4. I do hope you have a copy of Listology! It’s a fab book for list lovers.
    I too have moved on from pen and paper to my phone. There’s a great app called GTasks I use which is wonderful for keeping me together!

  5. I would love to see a ‘visual’ on one of your lists do you keep them at all? Do the older ones drop further and further down the pile. In my minds eye I see them all gently flapping on a huge clothes line that stretches from Edinburgh to Harpenden.

  6. For my birthday last year I was given a fabulous little notebook called ‘Love my Lists’ I now swear by it, writing down everything at the beginning of the week. I also need to get in the habit of jotting down blog posts cos my brain is becoming overloaded!

  7. Ah lists! I love lists! I even put things I’ve already done on my ‘to do’ lists just so I can get the ball rolling and cross something off straight away!

  8. I make lists of the lists I need to make! I also have a master to-do list, which is typed up and printed off… this is the list for more ongoing or long-term items. Yep! I am a total loser… but could not juggle everything without it xx

  9. I’m a list maker too! Despite all the modern technology and new tools I could use for list making, I still prefer the old pen and paper. There’s something so fulfilling about putting a line through a completed task by hand.

    • Completely agree! I’ll note something in my phone if I remember it when I’m out, but then I’ll always add it to the paper list when I get home. No prising that pen out of my hand!

  10. I am totally with you on this. I LOVE lists. I have notebooks everywhere so I can write things down, then I compile all my little scraps torn from the notebooks. It helps me organise my head, and yes, it’s quite nice striking them off the list, but actually just making the list–and sorting the priorities, is satisfying enough! I also use an app called Things that I can synch between my laptop and my phone which I really like because of the way I can organise it.

  11. I am such a list maker too, and have my little black book – every Sunday evening (or Monday morning if I’ve been lazy) I’ll write down all my jobs for that week (alot gets rolled over) ….. but I like that you have a separate list for blog posts – I might have to copy you with that one! X.

    • Ooh, I’m v impressed that Sunday evening is your usual list-making time! I’m usually incapable of doing much except drinking wine on the sofa at that time! I do the list of blog posts instead of making good use of my drafts folder… xx

  12. I was a list maker but since becoming a mum I don’t even seem to have time to make lists, or remember what I was supposed to write on it. Sadly, I seem to have become reliant on Siri setting up reminders on my phone as I need something to bleep at me to make me remember but hopefully life will become more ‘pen and paper’ again soon but mine will be a black biro x

  13. I am so crap at writing lists and ‘keep’ everything in my head. This means I forget so much and wish I’d written a list but I always, always, always forget to take shopping lists with me or forget where I’ve put the list or simply forget to look at them. In fact, I wrote a list of things which needed doing round the house a week ago but have no clue where it is now 😦
    Perhaps I should try and get in the habit of using them as I too love the satisfaction of ticking things off and dropping them out of my head forever. I also need to note down ideas I have in the middle of the night which I think I can’t surely forget, but almost always do.
    I really am a scatty mum of boys 😉

  14. Pingback: Cheerio 2013! « dorkymum

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