I am working with a group of teachers on noticing. Recognising the difficulty of recording accounts, we set ourselves to notice something very simple that we do not normally notice, and make accounts of it. I set myself to not make lists, and to recognise when I felt the desire to make a list.
As soon as I set myself to do this, I went to write 'NO LISTS!' on my hand, and then stopped. I started making a list of the things that the other teachers in the group had set themselves to do, and then crossed it out. In the days that followed, I went to make a list a number of times, either on my hand or on paper, but stopped.
I realised that I became very anxious that I would not remember something. I found myself frantically going over in my head what was coming up over the next day or two. After a couple of days this went away. I started to question why I had this tendency to go over what I needed to do so frantically. As the worrying subsided, I felt that I became more present in the moment, rather than worrying about the future.
I have become more relaxed. I have found myself spending more time with my partner in the evenings, instead of doing things on my long-term list. A few jobs that I was planning to do have slipped off the bottom of my non-list. I have found that things that matter nearly always come to my mind when needed. I had to phone my partner at 4pm, I remembered to phone her. I had to take a pen-drive to a colleague, I remembered to take the pen-drive.
I found myself doing things as they came to mind, rather than writing them down and doing them later. I had to take some books back to the library, so rather than write it down, I put the books in the bag that I was going to take. There is something paradoxical about listing: I make a list in the perception that it will relieve anxiety, and yet it allows me to procrastinate and nags away at me, increasing my anxiety.
I have broken my vow not to make lists three times. Once, to write something on my hand that I had forgotten that sprang to mind; I didn't want to forget it again, as there was a deadline coming up. Upon writing it on my hand, I ignored it a number of times before actually doing it. The second time I made a list was a list of books I was interested in reading. I buy a lot of books, more than I can read, and wonder if I would be better off without lists of books!
The third time was a Christmas shopping list, which I think was useful. There are different types of list, from short-term lists (such as shopping lists), to long-term lists with things that sit there nagging away at me to do. It is these types of lists that I will not be making any more.
There are possibly other types of list. I get ideas about planning lessons that I used to note down, but now they either stay in my mind or they don't, until I sit down to plan. A lesson plan is a list. I have been more disciplined in making accounts (as part of noticing) since not making lists. Accounts are in some sense a list of past events, to revisit some time in the future.
Doing something, such as making a list, even though I have set myself not to, or the opposite - not doing something that I have set myself to do - is a phenomenon that I am very interested in. New Years' Resolutions are a great example of these.
I have forgotten things, but not important things, and it turns out that forgetting things is often not as problematic as I feared. I had to make a presentation last week, and had to make it up as I went along. I think it went OK.
People have reacted strongly when I say that I am not making lists. Some say things like "Oh. yes, but I need them for my work!' People talk about making lists of lists, while others laugh and say, "I never make lists!"