Lindon Weeks in his NPR article, 10 Reasons Why We Love Making Lists , rolls his virtual eyes at the proliferation of lists in media and social outlets. Ironically, he himself makes a list for why we love making lists.
Lindon's top 10 Reasons include:
1. Lists bring order to chaos
2. Lists help us remember things
3. Most lists are finite
4. Lists can be meaningful
5. Lists can be as long or as short as necessary
6. Making lists can help make you famous.
7. The word "list" can be tracked back to William Shakespeare
8. Lists relieve stress and focus the mind
9. Lists can force people to say revealing things
10. Lists can keep us from procrastinating
I would agree with #1, 2, 8, and 10. But #4, 5, 7 are not really reasons why we make lists but rather are just characteristics of lists.
To add three more reasons of my own:
1. Lists help us be more efficient in accomplishing our tasks - as they say with the 5 P's - Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Lists are all about planning - why I should buy, my meeting agendas, project timelines. Similar to #8, but being more efficient doesn't necessary help to relieve all your stress because you might just end up with a longer list once you figure out you can accomplish more with less.
2. Lists help us reflect and in reflecting, allows us to learn more about ourselves - Lists such as things that matter to us or what we are thankful for helps us not to lose sight of what is important in life. At the end of the day, does crossing off the last to-do item matter more than setting aside those tasks for more time with family and friends?
3. Lists help with coordination - the online packing list that I used for our trip to Singapore allowed my husband to pack some items for me and allowed my sister to comment on items that she already had that I didn't need to pack. At work, on-line lists help coordinate and track cross-functional action items.
What do all these reasons have in common? I believe that lists can improve our quality of life. Since our time is one of our most valuable resources, lists enables us to live with a sense of purpose - applying ourselves in a way where we can make the most impact. Efficiently working through the mundane/necessary tasks and freeing ourselves to do what we want to do.
How about you? Why do you make lists?