Monday, 29 February 2016

To do or not to do, that is the question.

There has been, during the last few days, a bit of a to-do about to do lists.

(A pretty ghastly pun, I know, but I just couldn't resist it.)

As my long-time reader will know, I am an occasional lister.  I used to be much more consistent in my listing, but so many things change in retirement.

Anyway, it seems that some self-styled expert considers to do lists are wrongly named and should really be called to not do lists, even though that is grammatically incorrect with the split infinitive.  He contends that having a to do list leads one to procrastinate.  To dither.  To put off doing anything while worrying about what to do first.  Or simply worrying about the length of the list.

After his opinion was published in my daily fish-wrap, it led to a flurry of comments by regular columnists and letter writers.  Many of those people - almost without exception listers like myself - have commented that they still have a to do list from eons ago which they have failed to complete.  And by eons I don't mean just the last couple of weeks or even the last month; they were confessing, admitting or maybe proudly proclaiming that they still had to do lists from YEARS ago.

I like having a to do list.  Not all the time, but just occasionally, at those times when there seem to be a lot of different jobs piling up.  I find that it helps me to decide whether any job is urgent and important, urgent but not especially important, important but not urgent - or maybe there just because it's something I would like to do!  Above all, it helps me to avoid the greatest sin: completely forgetting any job in the welter of activity.

When I was working, I always spent a few minutes at the end of the day (the working day, that is) thinking about the jobs I needed to do the following day.  I would then compile a to do list for the next day.  I found this a great help as it meant that my subconscious mind was contemplating at least one of those jobs as I slept (both on the train home and in bed) and I could crack on very much more effectively the next day.

It has been said that people who like compiling to do lists are the same people who cross out or tick off or otherwise mark the crossword clues that they have solved.  I have been an habitual devotee of the daily cryptic crossword since before I left my parents' home - and in all those years it has been my practice to cross off the clue numbers when I have solved them.

The argument against marking the solved clues is that one should look at the grid to see which clue to attempt to solve next.  I do that, but I also read the clues to see which I can solve without looking at the grid.  It works both ways.  In any case, neither crossing off nor not crossing off the clues is going to bring on the apocalypse, so why get excited about it?

Now, what's next on the list?

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