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Make a random list of the unnecessary

I start my day with a to-do-list and coffee. Both help me think straight and suggest I am in control. I make mine with pens and markers — different nib styles and colours — in my shimmery planner. The day I leave the planner at home, I suffer from anxiety. A lot of people around me make lists too. My colleague has a black-white board, tinier than a postcard size picture. She scribbles a thought for the day on it — a different language each day. Last week it read Les Folies, French for ‘Let there be madness/craziness’ — it’s her way to learn a new language and expression, she says. On the other side, she makes notes of things to be done during the day: work and university assignments, mostly. A few others use the no-fuss yellow post-its. They paste them onto the side of their computer screens. Then there are the digital sticky notes on the laptops, where the typeface resembles the handwriting font.

Most of us love lists, whether we make them the previous day or at the start of the new one. Studies and observations suggest they help us stay focused and organised. They help us juggle chores and increase productivity. It’s our way of making sense of the day. Pick up the laundry. Buy eggs. Submit article by 3 pm. Reply to M’s e-mail. Book flight tickets. Work on the PPT, before EOD. Most lists include items like the above. They’re work-centric and our reminder of daily goals and tasks.

However, there are the other types of lists too — let’s call them the random type or the secret ones. These hold things that we all need to attend to but always overlook. Goals and tasks that aren’t necessary on the surface but mean something to us. I’ll leave you with a few examples from lists of those, who let me look through theirs. Wear old jumpsuit. Call mum. Unsubscribe from real estate e-mails. Go for a jog. Think about getting a cat. Talk to the plants. Sit straight. Write poetry. Never miss a Zumba class. Read the bookmarked article on green smoothies. Sleep early, eight hours minimum. Arrange holiday pictures in folders. Attend every art exhibition in town. Watch the kids sleep. Say no to the fancy party invite and spend the day in PJs. Et al.

Our brains and souls respond well to such randomness. In the words of Italian novelist, literary critic, and philosopher Umberto Eco — ‘The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible… And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists…’

Well, I can safely say that whoever said lists are pointless, didn’t ever make one, especially the secret one. Also, there is no greater pleasure than crossing off items from there. Here are a few items from my latest random list. Drink only fresh mint tea. Call G and remind her to send me pictures of my niece and nephew. Check out the weather in Poland in winter months, just like that. Embrace bad hair days. Light up the pretty candles, finally.

Do draw out one of yours. Load it with all that you think is unnecessary, it will make you happy.


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