I’m a list writer.
I love scratching off each line on a to-do list. I enjoy organizing my often sporadic thoughts with lists. I’ve caught myself spending hours reading every “Top 5 best ways to…” and “Seven things you can do to…” list online. Suffice it to say, it’s a thing.
With all these lists that abound, and that I find myself writing, there are three that I seem to keep coming back to.
- What bring me joy?
- What I need or what gives me life?
- What are the questions I’m holding?
The first list serves as a reminder. During one of the most challenging times of my life, I was encouraged by a friend to list 20 things that brought me joy. At the time I could only come up with 7. It was a small list, but helpful. Indeed, I have a habit of getting consumed by work, concerns, and random thoughts that like to swirl and can weigh me down. Having a list of what brings me joy (the things to which I smile automatically) reminds me what to reach for when I’m down. It might sound trivial to write it out, but I included things like tossing a tennis ball against a wall, and seeing a baby discover their hand for the first time. I still don’t have 20 things on my list. It doesn’t matter how many things you have. It matters that there is something there, no matter how trivial it might sound.
The second list serves as a guide. I work in various fields, with lots of different people, who have lots of divergent opinions. I enjoy find it difficult sometimes to maintain a sense of my own opinions and beliefs, while navigating such terrain. So I’ve come to right them down. Things on this list are big ideas like needing space (mental, physical, emotional), and smaller ones like what food is best to have stocked in the house.
The “needs” here are in recognition of and response to how I’m wired. By working to acknowledge how I’m uniquely wired, the needs that come with that, and work within their boundaries I find myself more filled with life than if I fight against it. It’s my way of engaging with self-care. I test these out, of course, to see if they are actual “needs” or just preferences or wants. Preferences can wait until the needs are fulfilled, and wants can be weighed against what is actually good in a particular time (for myself and those around me). I also test to make sure that “how I’m made” is being put toward “what I’m made for” and not anything else.
Lastly, the third list helps me keep track of the questions I’m holding. I enjoy finding good questions, and asking them often. My friend Michael Bungay Stanier also does this really well. Sometimes I hold on to them for a while before I get an answer. Sometimes I want to remember the question even after an answer come so I can come back and ask it again later or share it with others. So I write them down. All in one place.
Do you have key lists that you keep?