Blogger Explains “Life List” Caution

Back  to the “soft rollout” of the  Life List.

Why my delay? Actually, rather than being due to sheer laziness or ADD tendencies, my long LL drumroll can actually be blamed on some good habits I picked up a couple of years ago while interviewing  personal productivity guru David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.  I recommend his book and his methods to anyone with too many keys on the keyring. If your  life feels out of control more than a couple of times a week, the Way of Allen may help.

I noted earlier that the mental exercise of trying to build a Life List was helpful in clarifying what really mattered and what didn’t, because when you’re about to say “This is something I must do,” you’ve got to include the price tag–how much time, how much money, and how much in opportunity costs are you willing to pay to do this thing on the LL?

 Allen’s teachings add another good mental filter. If you identify something as a project, you must attach actions to it immediately; otherwise, it just becomes another of those deadly energy- and attention-draining “open loops” to worry about. It’s nothing more than a Beach Boys resolution–“wouldn’t it be nice if. . . ?”

So, for example, if you vow to buy a car by 2008,  well . .   What kind? How much? New or Used? You’ve got to start reading and looking and educating yourself to make a good  choice. So, Allenites know, you’ve got to break “Buy Car” into component steps, and here’s where you’ve got to think clearly and cut through the fog.

If you just write down “learn about new cars,” that doesn’t take you anywhere. Surely you don’t plan to learn about all new cars. And learn how? By going to the Tokyo Auto Show?The first step may be something as humble as “Subscribe to Consumer Reports so I can see their annual car recommendations.”

Allen stresses that the action must be expressed as something active that you can do: Subscribe, in this case. The next step might be “Call Henry to see how he likes his new Boxster.” But it has to be something physical and concrete, or you’re no closer to getting your car. And if you identify a goal but do nothing to achieve it, all you have done is create another mental “Kick Me” sign, something else to regret. But if you’ve identified and taken an action, you’re on the way.

Hence my hesitation to slap a bunch of airy goals onto a Life List. I’m taking it slowly, examining the options and making sure these are “Must Do” items. Why? Because once I commit to them, I’ve got to identify steps and start following through, or sink into guilt and declining self-esteem.

So, with all those cautions in mind, here are a few preliminary candidates for the LL, in no order of priority.

1. Write a book under my own name.  (I’ve ghosted and co-authored several books,  but this would be my own.)

2. Attend a World Series game–any teams will do; I’m not that much of a partisan.

3. Read all of George Orwell, one of my literary heroes.  I’ve read the popular novels Animal Farm and 1984, most of the nonfiction books and the major essays. I have not read his early novels or much of his journalism and letters collected in four big volumes some years ago, though I have some of those books on hand.

4. Increase my walking from the current 1.5 miles 3-4 times a week to 3 miles at least 3 times a week.

5. Go one solid month without eating meat, just to see the effects on mind and body. If it’s mostly good, I may lengthen the time. 

I’ll see if these pass final muster, then sketch out some Active Steps toward achieving them in future posts.


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