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list-and postit notes

I suspect people can be divided into two groups: those who make lists and those who don’t! I’m definitely in the former camp, especially if I’m stressed. It’s a way of keeping control, or reassuring myself that I’m on top of the situation (even if only just!). For me, it’s a calming mechanism: if it’s recorded in ink (or pencil, I’m not fussy), it must be doable and I can see I’m making progress. There’s also something terribly soothing about a nice piece of blank paper and a pen – or stationery in general, for that matter.

At any one time, I’ll have a number of lists dotted around the house: a big A4 notepad on which I jot down queries from my current translation as they arise, with document location and scribbled notes; a small jotter cube for business-related to-do items, to be crossed off as I complete them (or shamefully transferred to the next page in the case of less pressing matters), a couple of post-it notes with ideas for future blog posts as they occur to me, a slimline notepad next to my laptop in the kitchen which may have telephone calls to make, recipe ideas or recently a lengthy garden to-do list (busy season, spring!), and a wipe-clean memo board on the back of the kitchen door for shopping lists as I run out of ingredients. A listaholic in fact!

computer screen and lists_crop

I record incoming translation requests in a good old-fashioned ledger (and TO3000 as a nod to modern life!), but I did also treat myself to a chalkboard when I started outsourcing more than the odd, isolated job, with the aim of keeping a visible record of what I’d sent where. That hasn’t really taken off, probably because my outsourcing is still relatively small-scale, and I tend to refer to my ledger, but I like the fact that it’s there if I need it.


Christmas, friends for dinner, pre-holiday preparations are all occasions on which lists are vital, to my mind, at least. Setting things down on paper at the start of the day galvanises your mind and allows you to pace yourself – to say nothing of the satisfaction of crossing things off as you do them! I’m off on holiday again soon and have a list of clients to be notified (not long before I leave; I find if I tell people too soon, they’ll have forgotten by the time I go and I still end up having to respond to e-mails while I’m away). There are also items to pack and those not to forget (passport, ‘phone charger, adapter plug, toothbrush charger – first-world problems…) and of course household chores to do before I go, because I absolutely can’t stand coming back to an untidy house after a week away….

It’s funny, though, how some people adore lists, whereas they are anathema to others. My ex-husband used to abhor them; I could guarantee that if I dared issue him with a list of jobs to be done (given that he was away in the week and I’d have forgotten by the time he came home if I hadn’t made a note), he would refuse point-blank to do them! Same story with present ideas; a friend once thought she was being helpful in passing on an idea of a necklace she and I had seen when out shopping and I’d admired. I certainly hadn’t asked her to drop hints, but he felt he was being pressurised and went in the opposite direction… I, on the other hand, would much rather have gift ideas for friends and relations and tend to jot them down as I think of them or they are mentioned – surely better for people to have what they’d really like?

I don’t necessarily think it’s a male or female difference either; my younger son actually asked me to make a list for him when he came home over the Easter weekend and I’d a few “heavy” jobs lined up for him to do – and sure enough, we ticked every single thing off. Extremely gratifying all round.

In this day and age, I suppose I really should be using my ‘phone for lists, but I just haven’t got into the swing of it. Perhaps it’s because I work from home and old habits die hard, but I do like the solid, comforting presence of a paper list. Unless you forget it when you go shopping, of course… I must admit I did discover the Notes section on my iPhone on my recent trip to the ELIA conference in Barcelona. Travelling with just hand luggage meant taking a tiny handbag (to fit inside the cabin bag in case the Easyjet staff were particularly jobsworthy and insisted on the one-bag-only rule!) and I’d somehow forgotten to include a pen. The Notes feature was invaluable for keeping tabs on expenses and I should definitely make an effort to use it more often. I think I’m too set in my ways to use it for shopping lists, though – undoubtedly a generational thing!

So, are you a listmaker or a list hater? Perhaps it fits in with the personality traits of detail lovers versus those who prefer the bigger picture? Just don’t take my lists away from me!

old-fashioned list