In the Loop

Life on a list

Posted at 12:40 PM on October 1, 2007 by Larissa Anderson (3 Comments)

My desk is covered with Post-it Notes – names and numbers and passwords I can't keep in my head scribbled out on a yellow mass of little tiles spread out like squares on a scrabble board. Not the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen, but it keeps my day rolling.

It seems like the kind of thing David Allen would cure. Gary Wolf from Wired recently wrote about Allen's book, "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.” Wolf summed up the root of Allen’s philosophy:

Humans have a problem with stuff. Allen defines stuff as anything we want or need to do. A tax form has the same status as a marriage proposal; a book to write is no different than a grocery list. It's all stuff.

Allen’s answer? Lists.

Lists, Allen insists, help humans deal with their stuff; from errands to existential crises -- if you’ve got to think about it, you’ve got to put it down on a list.

Once you’ve done that, there’s a complicated system of exactly how you describe and distill your stuff on the list and then how you get the stuff off the list.

The whole thing sounds Sisyphusian to me.

But, Allen argues in his book that lists will free your mind, raise your self-esteem and give you a kind of inner peace.

Maybe yes, maybe no.

While my Post-it Notes pile up, I keep thinking about Anne Lamott’s ideas about clutter from her book, “Bird by Bird”:

… clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground--you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it’s going to get.


Comments (3)

Clutter causes me such stress. I will compulsively pile things if there is a mess in my vicinity. Therefore I have to defend tidiness . . . to me tidiness is not the best it's going to get, it's a solid foundation from which new adventures can start. It's like erasing an Etch-A-Sketch before you start a new pic . . . if you don't reset it you can't make a new clear image. If you don't clean your space you're not ready to make new messes.

Whew. Now that I've defended tidiness I can cross that off my list of things to do today.

Posted by Sanden Totten | October 1, 2007 1:14 PM


I just read a quote (off Rob Brezsney's Freewill Astrology site) that I copied onto a post-it note and put on my desk:

"Two dangers constantly threaten the world: order and disorder." - Paul Valery

Posted by Alana | October 5, 2007 3:00 PM


I love that quote, Alana! I do believe the "good stuff" in life is found in the tension between extremes such as this. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by linda lee | October 8, 2007 9:29 PM


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