Why I Make Lists

I open my bedroom door and tiny scraps of paper flutter around me. Written on them are all the things I must do in the near future. Every homework assignment. Every test. Every paper. Every meeting. Every due date for the entire semester, written out for me to see. No, this is not a nightmare. This is real life.

I make lists. Of everything. I make so many lists that my lists have lists. I’m not kidding. I made a list last night of all the lists I’ve made so far — and on top of that, I made another list of things I still have to make lists for!

I’m not sure if making lists is good for me. It’s made me organized and allowed me to remember important things — but then again, I can’t remember to do anything without having it on a list somewhere.

I tell myself that making lists keeps me organized. And that’s true in a way. I have lists for ongoing assignments that aren’t due until late in the semester, lists for assignments that need my immediate attention, and lists of miscellaneous activities (including writing columns for The Peanut).

All my lists help me prioritize my responsibilities. However, having so many scraps of paper all over the place makes me feel like the most unorganized person ever. I’m always trying to stack my lists into little neat piles in a vain attempt to feel more organized, but then I keep forgetting what’s on them.

You’re probably thinking something like, “Anna, why don’t you just make all your lists on the computer?” It’s true that putting my lists on the computer would eliminate the paper issue. But lists on anything other than paper are not helpful to me at all. I make grocery lists on my phone so I don’t have to carry a scrap of paper around with me at the store, but end up only getting half of the things on my list and buying more things that I don’t need. Lists on my computer are forgotten as soon as I type them. So, I end up with tiny pieces of paper all over my room.

It wasn’t always this way.

In high school, I wrote my homework assignments in a planner, and that’s all.

I’m unsure what happened, but my “listing problem” has steadily become worse as I’ve progressed through my college career. It started with a few innocent “To-Do” lists my freshman year. I was still using a planner to write down my homework assignments, but I decided I needed another form of self-communication to remember things like cleaning and sleeping on a regular basis. Then my sophomore year, I added lists of urgent homework assignments to my to-do lists. I’ve been in a fast downhill spiral ever since.

I get a strange satisfaction out of being able to cross something off of a to-do list. An even stranger satisfaction comes out of seeing everything I have to do listed out in an orderly format by due date. It’s strange, but the lists that I make are helpful in more ways than just helping me remember things. My lists make me more self-confident, because I know that I’ll get everything done if I can see it all written out in one place. They also make me happier, because I get to cross things off of them when they’re done. I just wish I knew why I started having this need to make lists of everything.

I wonder if I have more things to remember now or if I’ve just gotten worse at remembering things. I do have more important things to remember than “Laundry on Wednesday” now. I prefer to think I’m actually learning worthwhile things in college, and that those things take up space in my brain that was once used for remembering. However, I’m increasingly afraid that I’ve just gotten worse at remembering things that I have to do.

Anyway, now I have to go make a list of random facts that I feel are important for me to remember.