wings and things

From listless to listful

on August 16, 2014

Over the last few weeks I have discovered something wonderful about lists. You know, the kinds of lists that read like this:

– pay bills
– ride bike
– groceries (don’t forget toilet paper!)
– change bedsheets and do the washing
– vacuum house
– write 1,000 words of new book
– ring plumber
– buy new hoses to replace leaky ones
– see Anthony
– cook a healthy meal
– catch up with other people’s blogs
– wash car
– plan next week with Ming
– ring Mother to arrange lunch
– start new filing system
– get prescriptions from chemist
– book lawnmowing people
– do tax
– return library books
– start taking photos again
– start praying again
– make soup
– make a cake for Anthony and Ming
– go to bed earlier and get up earlier
– do a cull of clothes
– sort out rubbish to take to the dump
– do tomorrow’s list

Okay so, despite the fact that none of the above tasks is, in itself, onerous, it was this kind of list, that rendered me listless. (Interestingly, the word ‘list’ derives from the Middle English word, ‘pleasure’). I would only ever be able to accomplish a few of my listed tasks, I would then feel like a failure….

Eventually, I realized that this kind of list-making was making me extremely unhappy, so much so that I could hardly face each and every day. I resented each and every task I didn’t get done and each and every goal that went by the wayside.

Nevertheless, every night I would make another list for the following day. Energized by a pre-midnight spark of incentive, I would make more do-able lists. But with no job to go to, with no Anthony at home to care for, and with Ming out of school, there was rarely anything on my lists that couldn’t wait, so it felt as if I were continually failing myself.

As a result, the familiar depression curled itself into a small bundle of rock-hard heartburn that only left me alone when I was asleep. So I slept away many days in June until, on the 29th, I woke up with a new idea; I would write my daily lists differently; I would write them backwards instead of forwards; I would write what I had done every day instead of what I should do.

– paid all of the bills
– communed with dogs
– did all folding and put a load of washing on
– cleaned kitchen meticulously
– made a cake!
– saw Anthony from 1 – 4.30
– bought a bunch of coriander for the first time in my life
– made a curry from scratch
– washed hair
– communed with birds
– watched a show with Ming
– began reading a library book

To have done even some of the things I had listed as to-do for weeks (but not done), catapulted me out of my fug and into a fantastically different way of seeing each day. Now, with my listful notebook always handy, I list every single little thing I do on every single day – everything from washing my hair to planting strawberries; everything from poaching eggs to making friends with a new resident at the nursing home; everything from catching up with long-lost relatives to picking camellias for Anthony’s room.

This new listful method has also evolved into a better daily routine whereby I am in the nursing home every afternoon, seeing Anthony, doing the volunteering, seeing Anthony again and usually getting home by 6pm.

It is so wonderful to NOT be listless!

64 responses to “From listless to listful

  1. Brilliant idea!
    I will give this a try 🙂

  2. What a brilliant way to create value, meaning and purpose in the everyday.I love how you reframed the ‘must do’ to ‘ta doooo! got it done!’ Love it.

  3. ksbeth says:

    love, love, love, love this jules!

  4. Terry says:

    excellent idea. a few word changes can change everything about a person’s life. Good job Julie!

  5. That is a fantabulous idea and it is much more fun! Curry from scratch, YUMMY! The cake too 😀

    • jmgoyder says:

      I bet you make a mean curry Laurie!

      • I have never made a real curry. My mother-in-law used to make “curry” using the mix in the envelope and I would make sure that there were chopped apples, raisins and peanuts to add, but other then that, I have yet to try an authentic curry. There is one for the bucket list. Thanks Jules 😀

  6. susanpoozan says:

    You are clever turning your life around like that. I have a sister who makes those sort of depressing lists so I shall tell her what you did.

  7. I love this idea. Thank you!

  8. Colline says:

    Love your idea. It shows how much you actually have done in the day 🙂

  9. Trisha says:

    I love this idea! I, too, dread, resent and avoid things on my to-do list and then feel like I’m never accomplishing a thing. This method of list making would definitely turn that around. Once again, you are an inspiration!

    • jmgoyder says:

      Sometimes the list only consists of a few things like ‘got up early’, ‘washed kitchen floor’, ‘watched Midsomer Murders with Ants’, ‘made a cheesecake’ but it feels so much better to list things this way rather than looking at a list I failed.

  10. It’s always nice to see where you’ve been and what you’ve accomplished (or survived )… That realization came to me a couple of months ago… instead of looking at what I hadn’t yet had success with…. Diane

  11. I love the idea of a ‘done’ list rather than a ‘to do’ list! I think I might adopt your idea. 🙂

  12. tootlepedal says:

    It is much better to decide what you are going to do after you have done it. You are a genius.

  13. Yes I so know what you mean about making lists then not getting things done that are on the lists and years ago I took to listing all the things I did in a day, ok it started because of Tim asking one day what I did all day so I made lists every day for a week to show him and yes it pissed him off but it also stopped him asking what I did all day and I still like to list what I have done during the day as it helps me feel like my life if more productive than I will often feel it is

  14. Vicki says:

    Sounds like a good idea, Julie.

    (It’s almost like my mental list that says ‘stop thinking about all the things I can’t do anymore and think about the wonderful things I CAN do’).

    Thinking about what you’ve achieved is always going to be a ‘winner’ in my book.


  15. bluebee says:

    Aha – a really good idea! 🙂

  16. janeslog says:

    Lists are essential to ensure that you don’t forget things. Don’t make them too long though!

  17. love love love this–am going to start employing it and it has given me an idea for my newspaper column this week!

  18. Brilliant listing. At work I start a list every day with the 4 things I must do daily, then add things as I do them. Some days I have things I must do that are added. But it works with a little preplanning and room for surprises.

  19. Such a great idea. A new twist on the glass is half full. Really like this. ❤

  20. FlaHam says:

    Julie, when I read “the list” I realized even when I was healthy that would have been a week’s worth of chores, and I sat here and imagined christ she is setting herself up for disappointment. Then as I read further and finally got to the revised “list” I felt joy for both you and me. I used to write lists like yours, and would feel that touch of failure when I didn’t complete it, but by adopting the accomplished list, I can revel in wht I got done. What a great way of making a positive a real positive. Take care, Bill

  21. Judith Post says:

    Brilliant idea! Now, you must feel like you’ve accomplished a lot. An awesome approach to each day.

  22. Healthy alternative. Except you might have on your “done” list: Re-schedule missed dental appointment. 🙂

  23. Lisa Rest says:

    This is a great idea. I have tried to make lists that encompass only what I absolutely have to do and then added a few things I’d like to do but items get carried over into infinity, I know the feeling! Especially that keeping up with everybody’s blogs one. I can barely keep up with my own. Enjoy your listlessness! 🙂

  24. paulaacton says:

    I love lists and even downloaded an app especially for lists I use the a pomodoro timer app to create the lists then use the timer for specific tasks (you know the stuff you can get lost in like reading blogs, posting on FB or twitter) then just tick off the bigger tasks

  25. elizabeth says:

    Wonderful outcome! You clever girl. 🙂 No more to-do lists for me! Lol

  26. you are amazingly brilliant and i love how you can turn things around! i have always told chris when something is not working there is always one more thing to try to make it better. at lunch today the women we all talking about cooking and canning, very big here in the south. when asked what i had done today i said “well i got out of bed and showered which can be the end of my day at times, however today i also drove myself here for dinner with you lovely people. you see i really enjoy this outing and try to make sure that i rest up so i can do this.” they all looked and me for a moment then said they were so happy i was able to make it. like you i try to focus on what i can do or actually do in a day rather than chastise myself for what didn’t get done. life is too short to deride ourselves for doing the best we can and thinking that is not good enough.

    how you manage to do all that you do each day is a miracle. you inspire me and i am in awe of you:)

    • jmgoyder says:

      Well I am in awe of YOU Sandra! Every day that you can get out of bed and shower and even go out to lunch is a feat of amazing strength and tenacity and way beyond anything I do. I have learned so much from you about making the most of whatever is possible, about making the most of every single day, every single hour. You are a legend! Lots of love Julie

  27. viveka says:

    Julie, some bucket list you had …. I had a boss once that always wrote a long long list for the night staff .. I said to him once … nobody will manage to do all the in 8 hours and his answer was – the longer list .. the more they try to get everything done, I’m glad if they only manage half of it.
    How true isn’t that. I think you did pretty good .. and I think we all need a daylist. Great post.

  28. Ann Koplow says:

    LOVE this, Julie.

  29. Lynda says:

    Julie, as I read your list I thought to myself, “this is a week’s worth for me!”

    Julie: Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound…

    Oh, wait…

    Julie: Mother to Ming, loving wife, fights dragons daily and often wins, my friend.

    Dragons go by many names and you know quite a few of them by now. I’m glad you changed your point of view.

    Armour up! 🙂

    Ephesians 6:10-18New International Version (NIV)
    The Armor of God

    14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

    Love you my friend.

  30. I’m the champion list person. My whole life is a list, down to the hour and sometimes even the minute. I introduced Julian, my 16-yo employee, to lists, and he’s just having a ball. He never knew daily living could be so much fun. We have daily PI (Productivity Index), and when the daily PI record is broken, rewards are earned. He didn’t need much motivation to begin with, but daily lists and PI have sent his motivation over the cliff.

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