“To Do” Lists


I was taught how to make lists by Superwoman.  I was the scattered girl in my first job as a design assistant to Shirley Conran, a woman who much later became famous as the author of a book that told everyone how to organize their lives.  Well, she organized me first.

Shirley’s life was ruled by lists. She would pin her demands for the day up on the wall for the rest of us to read and do.  “Give me six great tips on clutter.  I want your six best jokes about weight loss.  Give me six unique ideas about bedrooms.”  She also taught us how to keep the lists tidy by crossing each item off with a little vertical line.  That way you could instantly see what hadn’t been done, and when you’d crossed everything off on your list, you’d get an unbroken vertical line.  Since then, I’ve lived my life by “to do” lists.  At the start of each year, each week, each day, or simply when I feel overloaded and in need of a fresh start, I write the date at the top of a page and then write down everything I have to do.  I usually have two separate columns:  one for work and one for personal tasks.  Then, if I’m being really organized, I draw up a timetable for the day or the week, calculate how long each task will take, and note it.  Things are more likely to get done if I take the time to do this.  And the time frame helps enormously.  When you see that the phone call you really don’t feel like making is only going to take five minutes, there’s no excuse for not putting it at the top of your list and getting it over with.

“To do” lists may seem anally retentive and control-freaky if you aren’t using them already, but if you follow them religiously, they work brilliantly in reducing that internal sense of clutter and panic and in actually getting things done.  And they free up your mind for the really interesting things…like planning your summer vacation!

Lesley Garner

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