Life

How to list life to the full | Guy Browning

Step 1. Read this article

The List of Why I Write Lists…

1. If I didn’t I would be standing in a cupboard shouting.

2. I write what I feel first. I immediately feel better.

3. Then I write what I think. Chew things over a bit.

4. Then I coolly analyse my feelings. Might blow my nose.

5. I then consider what I should do about the situation.

6. I might then make some impressive promises to myself.

7. Then I tell myself to get real. It’s me we’re talking about.

8. At point eight I normally run out of points.

9. But this is when the calm extra thought arrives.

10. And then we can move on relatively sensibly.

The world is divided into those people who can’t do anything without making a list first, and dangerous anarchists. Writing lists is all about imposing order on a chaotic universe. A dictionary is a list of words, a timetable is a list of trains and the internet is a very big list of everything.

The brain can only cope with three items of information at any given moment. Therefore lists start with a minimum of four items. The best lists have 10 items on there – 10 items are far too many to remember and certainly too many to do at once. Hence the Ten Commandments. For some people the To Do list is a comfort blanket. Many people actually write things they’ve already done on their To Do list so that they can immediately cross them off and get the feeling that they’re well on top of things. Other people keep their To Do Lists for years so that it always looks 99 per cent completed with one or two minor things to do at the bottom.

It’s worth remembering that by the time you’ve written a To Do list, you could have done at least one of the things on the list. That’s the two-minute rule. If you can do it immediately in less than two minutes, do it before you write your list.

There’s nothing like seeing your name on a list to make you feel as though you’ve made it (unless it’s a list of the glorious dead). Most people want to be on a list and preferably right at the top. Naturally, it’s best to be the person who writes the list in the first place. Second best is to be the person who controls the list and gets to say: “Sorry, you’re not on my list.”

Getting on a list is hard but getting off a list is even harder, as anyone who has found themselves on a mailing/cold-calling list will know. Depressingly, the only way to get off a list is to be on a list of those people to be taken off the list.

My Life in Lists by Guy Browning, the first novel written entirely in lists, is out now in hardback (Square Peg, £12.99)

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