People on the To-Do List

An acquaintance of mine sent me an email this morning informing me that my email to her is now in her “to-do” folder & she’ll get back to me next month.  I’d have to say that my reaction to this was complicated.

Now, just so you know, I love to-do lists.  I have lots of them.  I’m one of those people who will add something I’ve already done onto my list so that I can have the satisfaction of checking it off.  I even enjoy looking at other to-do lists: an all-time favorite is Woody Guthrie’s “New Years Rulin’s” (1943); another essential one is “60 Things To Do Instead of Eating.”  Figuring out one’s optimal to-do list system is, imho, a key indication of maturity and a healthy work ethic.  & if that system changes monthly as you change, or as to-do list tech changes, well, that too is an indication of maturity & – um, flexibility!

But hey, telling someone that you’re on their to-do list…I’m really not sure whether Ms. Manners would approve.  Not that I don’t have people on mine…people who I really like, people who I know are having a hard time & could use some extra support (I’m all-too-often on my own list in this category), people who I haven’t seen in ages but with whom I’d love to get together again, someday, people who I need to reconcile with if I can muster the energy, etc etc.  Really, I want to connect with all these great folks, but where does the time go?  At least they’re there (although they don’t know it), on my to-do list.  On one or more of my to-do lists.  & I do lovingly think of them more often than they’ll ever know.

I’m curious about the role these lists have in making sense of our lives.  A cursory web search reveals hundreds of articles & blog-posts about the psychology & efficacy of to-do lists – clearly this human attempt-at-efficiency tool is way more important to us than factual information about one of our two closest primate cousins (- see previous post introducing bonobos).  Here’s a good one:  “Would Buddha Make a To-do List?” – for heaven’s sake, of course he had a list!  He was human before he became the Buddha, right?

For me, at this point, the to-do list usually doesn’t hold much urgency, which makes it easy for things to stay on it for months.  On the other hand, having that list reassures me that I really do have alot I have to do, if I could just get motivated to do it.  For others, like friends & family members who are part of the daily work world, the to-do list can be unbearably long & overwhelming…immobilizing rather than helpful.

No doubt our world will just keep getting more complicated & our to-do lists will reflect that reality.  Lucky for you, if you’ve read this far, you can smugly check ‘Read The Everyday Primate‘ off your list, or, if it’s (shockingly) not on your list but you haven’t been able to accomplish enough of those to-do’s today, just do what I do!  Really, it’ll make you feel great.


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