The Actual Book List

180 (1)

A while back I gained some perspective when I read the blog post from Wait But Why about how much time we may have left at any given point in our lives. One of the things that rattled me (besides the fact that I may only have 20 more holidays left with certain people) is how many books I may read by the end of my life.

Life is busy and distracting, and although I like to read, I am not a fast reader and start a lot of book, yet never finish them. I typically would have 6 to 8 books on my nightstand. With a series of fits and starts I would go back and forth between all of these books, yet never finish them.

At my then pace of about 4 books per year (I am only counting actual books that I actually finished – you know all the way to the last page) at best I only had 180 books left to read.


With the millions of books in the world, and thousands being added everyday, 180 books became a scary proposition.

I used to brag about books I was reading, or books I intended to read. But those books remain unfinished.

For 2016, I decided to create a new pattern, a new approach.

I now have the actual book list.

These are books I have actually read in 2016. I write them down right after I finish and savor that last page. There is something important about that transaction. Instead of the pressure of seeing those stacks of unread books, I now have a list of what I actually did.

I am a big fan of lists. But lists, especially aspirations or dreams can feel so unattainable that those same lists that are designed to help us, can become an overwhelming burden of non-accomplishment.

The Actual Book ListInstead of a list of what I would like to accomplish, the actual book list records the progress that I actually made. There is something more satisfying about this list.

The good news: at this pace the 180 may just become 360, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

The real number is 4 for 2016 as of today. But even 4 in the midst of a crazy, busy, and distracted life feels like an achievement.

The Today List

Yes I like lists. Lists are good. But, lists can feel like a burden. Sometimes items joining the list outpace our ability to accomplish the tasks. The lists keep growing.

While having lunch with someone close, we started to talk of lists. Our many lists. Our volumes of lists.

The paper list at work, the paper list in my office, the lists on my phone (which includes 10 ongoing lists), the list I made in my FIELD NOTES, and the new list that I just created that day during my super-secret-bonus day.

They provided a piece of advice.

“That is why I have a Today list.”

“What is a Today list?”

“It is a list where I just take a few items that I need or want to accomplish today, and put it on this small list. Then I go accomplish these few items.”

“Brilliant. I need to write that on my list (of potential blog ideas).”

Life and lists can feel a little overwhelming. The weight of all those pages and entries can crush us.

There was something incredibly freeing about taking a moment and making one more list.

Just a few items.

Just what I need or want to accomplish today.

Just today.

The Today List. Brilliant.


Lists are Good

Lists are GoodI have a love/hate relationship with lists.

Lists keep track of what needs to be done.

Lists can feel overwhelming when there are so many things to be done.

A friend recently had a contractor over their house. The house needed numerous small repairs. As they prepared to walk from room to room and discuss the projects, my friend handed the contractor a list.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I made a list of all of the various projects.”

“Lists are good. I cannot tell you how many times I come to someone’s house and they rattle off all these things that were not part of our original discussion and expect me to remember them all.”

There was a sigh of relief from my friend. The last contractor didn’t have the same perspective on lists. There would be discussions, but not all projects were remembered or completed. There seemed to be agreement on what needed to be done, but various details would be missed that required projects to be either redone, or re-visited.

When it comes to lists, I think our egos can come into play.

“Don’t worry about it.” (As we tap our heads.) “I got it, I will remember, I don’t need to write it down.”

We don’t always have it.

We don’t always remember.

We do need to write it down.

Lists help in other ways. Lists provide accountability to ensure that we accomplish the task. Lists also provide the often needed sense of accomplishment. Each crossed-off item can bring pride for a job well done.

I will try to bring a little more love, and a little less hate to my lists.

I will also try to remember: Lists are Good.