Sunday Rant: The Tyranny of the To-Do List

I love to-do lists. Love them. I have about 89 old moleskines full of them. That's right, I don't use my expensive hipster notebooks for idle scribblings or for writing poetry or for plotting the Next Great American Novel. I use them to make lists of things that, in theory, I should do, but probably never will because a) they're boring; b) they involve the bank in some way; c) they're hard work; or d) all of the above. So what's the problem (apart from the waste of paper - sorry, Environment)? To-do lists show (surely!) a sense of organisation and dedication, a logical and carefully prioritised approach to life's less instinctive and enjoyable tasks (notice, for instance, that to-do lists rarely include things like "go to pub!" or "have a long boozy lunch with friends and then call in sick to work on Monday so you can have a lie-in to recover!").

Yes. I like to-do lists, in part, because they appeal to the über-conscientious bit of me (YES, I do have an über-conscientious bit, though I usually hide it under the rather larger irreverent bit) that likes to approach things with a plan. To-do lists are like a knight's armour; the battle isn't going to be any easier (in fact, all that metal makes it a bit of a slog, and it's hot and stuffy in here), but the blows will hurt less. Because, you know, EVEN THOUGH I haven't yet paid my overdue electricity bill, IT'S ON THE LIST, BITCHES, so you can't say I don't have my shit sorted out.

The problem is that, if you imbue them with too much importance, allow their power to go unchecked, to-do lists become little malevolent kings. You start to find yourself using them not as a useful tool but as a blueprint for everything. You say things like, Yeah, I'd love to come to that Awesome Event Where They're Giving Away Diamonds And Chocolate And Puppies In Every Glass Of Champagne, but MY TO-DO LIST SAYS I CAN'T BECAUSE I HAVE TO DROP MY DRY CLEANING OFF AND THEN I NEED TO GO TO THE BANK AND WAIT SIX HOURS FOR THEM TO SAY I CAN'T HAVE MY BANK CARD BACK EVEN THOUGH THE MACHINE ATE IT, sorry.

It's not even that I want to drop my dry cleaning off or sit at the bank while someone else's small children tie my shoelaces together in an effort to distract themselves from the fact that they've been here since Mummy came in to discuss a loan last Tuesday. Those things are incidental - yeah, it'd be great to have coats that don't make it look (and smell) like I get all of my clothing from landfills, and it would be pretty useful to have a debit card so that, you know, I could PAY FOR THE DRY CLEANING, but it's not like my happiness depends on these things. I could perfectly happily stay in bed all day eating avocado on toast and watching old episodes of Spooks and wondering if Richard Armitage's eyes could possibly be that blue and intense in reality.

No. The thing is that I just really, really want to cross things off of my to-do list. That's why we all put things on our to-do lists that we've already done: so we can experience an instant thrill as we cross them off again. At the end of the day, a to-do list is not about organisation or prioritisation or dedication or anything except this:

It's about crossing things off.

Which, if you really think about it, is weird. I make these lists, these pages and pages of lists, so that I can deface them.

And while I'll continue to make my to-do lists, I refuse to have my life ruled by the bizarre compulsion to draw a line through a piece of text. So if you'll excuse me, I'll just go cross "write Sunday Rant" off today's list and then see what the next easy thing to get done is (looks like it's "go for a swim").