Posted by: Jamie Hahn | July 23, 2010

To-Do Lists be Damned! (well, sort of)

I’m a list maker. I would be lost without my lists. My life is organized by a complex web of To-Do lists that allow my mind some freedom and ease. I have categorized lists for short-term tasks and long-term endeavors, lists of tasks that require follow-up but no direct action, lists that separate and cross-reference important and urgent tasks, and my favorite…lists that refer to other lists.

It works for me. By most standards, I would be considered very productive – not much falls through the cracks on my watch.

Or does it?

My lists are robust and comprehensive – that much I know. But, I realized the other day that I could learn more about myself and my life if I considered the things that don’t make it onto my To-Do lists.

For example, I have never written a To-Do list like this:

1)      Smell the flowers

2)      Be grateful for 5 things today

3)      Scan the night sky for falling stars

4)      Try something new

5)      Laugh yourself silly with a few of your closest friends

6)      Pick an old friend at random and call them

7)      Do something that scares you

8)      Turn off your iPhone…indefinitely

9)      Eat at least one meal today thoughtfully

10)   Be kind

I would venture to say these things are just as important as that report I had to write last week, and definitely more important than my hair appointment at 6:00 on Thursday.

I have also realized that my To-Do lists keep me in a comfortable and scripted place when it comes to my daily life. I can live the illusion that I know what’s next. I can form expectations and feel like I have some control over how my day goes. All of this makes me feel safe as I stroll merrily and confidently through this life.

But if life (and Twitter) have taught me anything, it’s that it’s more fun when you let Serendipity in. She’s a slippery muse with a twisted sense of humor, but she’s that friend that leads you down a dark alley in the middle of the night to see the full moon in all its glory. She forces you out of your comfort zone and often rewards you with new understandings and adventures.

So, while I don’t envision my overall To-Do list making to change much as a result of this realization (there’s just too much to get done), I do think it was a worthy reminder. I plan to step out of the gushing flood of To-Do’s each day to give Serendipity the time and space to join me. I’ve tried to send her an Outlook calendar invite, but she’s never responded. So, until then, you may find me leaning against a lamp post on the corner or resting on a blanket in the park waiting to see what she might have in store for me…



  1. I am a list maker as well! My latest blog is the 12 things I couldn’t live without! I always get a chuckle when I find a list from months ago with a few things still left to get to.. which are usually on my new list that I just haven’t gotten to!

    You are a wonderful writer! I look forward to reading your blog! 🙂

  2. Thanks very much!

    I think you can learn a lot about someone if you look at the lists they make. I’m also notorious for carrying over old tasks to new lists. Just can’t seem to get it all done – and those are usually the tasks I’m dreading. 🙂

    Looking forward to checking out your blog. Really great to connect with you.

  3. number 7 has changed my life for the better. i think it’s really the only thing on my daily todo list (i’m not counting rescheduling my internist appointment and stuff like that). fear less.

    i love your list.

    • Fear less. I love that. Thanks!!

  4. i had “fear less” bumper stickers made a while back. they are lost in the jumble of my upstairs/downstairs move. i’ll get one to you when they turn up.

    it’s featured here –

    james. i am loving reading your blog.

    • I’m so glad. It’s nice to have motivation to keep writing – it feels like such hard work sometimes. But it’s not! Learning the ukelele and re-learning how to walk…now that’s hard work. Will look forward to the bumper sticker and your new videos and blog posts on your site!

  5. A thought: perhaps you don’t need to make a list to remind yourself of these things because they make up who you are? Automatic, natural, essence which remembers to smell flowers and be kind??

    That said, Serendipity is my all time favorite word ever. Sort of like connecting via the randomness of Twitter. 😉
    Be well!!

    • Hi Susan…thanks so much for your comment. I would love to get to the point where I don’t need to remind myself to slow down and be thoughtful. I’m getting better at it each day — the goal is to have it become automatic (as you suggest)!

      Great to connect with you!

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