I became a list maker during a desperate time in my life.
I was 26 years old and working in commercial real estate in Dallas. The company was clawing its way out of bankruptcy reorganization and the CEO spent his days barking orders and stomping the hallways. The front office secretary chain-smoked Marlboros while swearing at anyone who would dare to come near her desk. My boss shuffled around the office stooped over because of stress-induced back spasms; she looked like a bag lady looking for coins on the ground.
I hated every minute of it. Who wouldn’t? Finally, I quit my job and enrolled in a fast-track program to get my residential real estate license. I passed the Texas exam, found a broker to hire me and began working 12 hour days to sell a house.
That’s when I started making lists. They kept me focused on the (million jillion) details I needed to handle. I had no salary, only commissions. I had no savings and my bills were piling up. The wolf was at the door. Somehow, the lists made it seem as if the world could be managed. They assured me that my life was not spiraling out of control…
Within eight weeks I had seven properties in escrow and soon had $9,000 in the bank. The lists had saved me, or so I believed. I’ve been keeping To Do lists ever since.
The process becomes feverish in the weeks before I travel. To avoid one impossibly long list, I make separate ones: flight and hotel reservation details; museums to visit, and in which order; what to pack; chores to finish before I leave… I make notes of items I’ve forgotten in the past to bring on trips (the “Don’t Forget” list) that includes cell phone and laptop chargers, my feather pillow, snacks for the plane…
During the weeks before a trip I develop itty-bitty panic attacks. The lists help me maintain the illusion that nothing will go wrong. As the lists pile up, I begin making lists of my lists, to make sure I’ve covered everything.
Crazy? Yeah, I suppose so. But I’d be even more crazy without them.