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The List Issue

Posted on November 4, 2019 by dragonspitapothecary

There are a couple weeks before the official start of the holidays yet for weeks now the stores have been loading up with colorful lights, holiday food items and advertisements for sales on hot gift items. We are commercially driven to start thinking of the holidays earlier and earlier it seems every year. It is impossible not to think about the holidays that are fast approaching with each trip to a store starting in about October.

I can appreciate the need to plan ahead for important events. We spend months even years ahead of time planning the perfect wedding. We spend weeks and months putting together special events and parties too. We plan our family vacations months ahead of time to coordinate details and secure what we need. So I can appreciate where we would also need to consider doing the same for the holidays since they are actually sometimes big deals that need a lot of coordination and planning.

When you think of having a “simple holiday season” that can seem to conflict with the messaging you see in stores and advertisements. It can quickly become overwhelming in trying to balance “simple” against trends, have to have it now consumerism and what is on sale. Then there are details like travel plans, schedules of visiting family and friends and time to get with local friends.

Our errands and to-do lists become beasts to manage sometimes when we see them coming up on our calendars. Let’s not even talk about the credit card statements that also bring up their own stress sometimes.

So how do you “keep it simple” against all these competing demands for our time and attention? How do you keep your focus on the daily needs while not letting creeping messages from retailers overrun our minds and drive up our anxiety?

Lists and more lists!

I am a list maker. Sometimes though that list I makes me gulp and I feel my neck get hot with stress before I even start on crossing one thing off that list. Sure I can control what goes on the list but we all know how easy it is to just add it on there so you don’t forget about it later. Before you know it you have a list that is longer than Santa’s good child report.

Over the years I have tried different ways to manage my lists, whether written down, on my phone or just in my head. I’ve tried the pretty list tools that help you prioritize things, color code them and sort them in a meaningful way. I even tried basic notepads and the memo app in my phone. There are apps too that are specifically for lists. I really like the gift reminder app for holiday gifts to keep track of what my son wants this year for Christmas. In the end though, they still were lists that created this angst of needing to spend every minute of every day planning, doing and completing something big or small all so I could get them off a list. It becomes a personal competition to see how many I can cross off just to get them off rather than if they are meaningful.

A list to me is for things I need to remember. That’s all it is at the core of its being. It’s a place to make sure I don’t forget something key that among the other going on things in my day would be missed if I didn’t jot it down somewhere. The pressure of when those things get off the list and personal competition with myself to get them all done in record time to feel accomplishment is where I have found myself stressing. I have even found I beat myself up for not doing something on a list or “forgetting” something that was on the grocery list. Too often our lists become the barrier from us enjoying the process, slowing our pace or realizing other elements of day because we are focused on completing a list.

If you’re like me and start to feel you can’t relax before you have completed your list, here’s the secret… you can do without your list. Gasp! I know that’s totally rebellious to consider. However, consider how much less stress you have with a smaller list or perish the thought no list at all! If I forget something from the list or it doesn’t get done, will the world end? Probably not. Will it be slightly inconvenient or look less prepared? Maybe. Will I survive and figure something? Oh yes!

The ability to see your list as a tool and not a competitive sport with yourself is one of the best ways you can reduce the holiday pressure and stress and realize it’s just a random list on a piece of paper or in an app that you can close.

Practicality of a List

I do still keep a list. Well honestly I keep several lists for different purposes. I have a grocery list that’s basically the app for the grocery store that I add things to as we need them and when it gets full I order groceries. There’s the work lists and lists for my business. There’s a gift list.

While I keep many types of lists, overall though I try to keep my lists intentional and short. I try to add only 5-7 things (except for groceries) and when those start getting done I will then add some more if I need to. This has been the biggest help to me in avoiding getting overwhelmed and stressed about everything that needs to get done. I also find that I truly get down to what is most important by limiting what goes on the list.

As you enter this holiday hustle and bustle consider what is going on your lists. Yes we all have more than enough to do this season but what if we revamped that list to just 5 things that had to be done? What if we went rogue and didn’t have a list at all? I know for some, me included that is too deep and I would be stressed from that but I have often dreamed what it would be like without a list. I compare it to be out somewhere without my phone. Perhaps it could be a wild adventure!