List Less, Live More

By: Devin Riggs, Regular Contributor

I am a self-proclaimed list obsessor. I love making lists. I love them so much I make lists for my lists. It brings me joy and a sense of calm to organize my life in such a clean, handwritten, vertical fashion.

Seriously. To me, a to-do list is one of the most beautiful things in the world.

The problem is that I love lists so much that I spend more time writing them than crossing off the tasks. Don’t get me wrong, it feels great to check things off, but for some reason, about halfway through the list I decide I need to redo it so it looks more organized. It’s a vicious cycle that I realize is unhealthy and in the long run, unproductive.

In a recent interview to promote her new book, Yes Please, Amy Poehler talks about her writing process and how she learned that the thing about writing a book is that you just have to write the book. It’s not going to write itself.

It struck a chord with me when she said, “Commit as much to doing it as you do to talking about it.”

I am definitely guilty of talking about my goals and how I want to achieve them more than I go after them.

My focus is on planning to do things instead of actually doing them. I am always on the cusp, never quite diving in, and I think I figured out why.


I am afraid of failing. I am afraid that the “doing” won’t be enough. So I don’t reach out. I don’t take risks. I don’t complete the list. I just add more tasks, thinking that some day they will cross themselves out.

And the thing is, they won’t.

There are so many things I want to do in my life. I want to publish a collection of my poetry. I want to pursue my passion for photography. I want to learn how to cook the perfect steak. I want to be fully independent from my parents. I want to travel abroad and visit new exciting places.

None of that is going to happen if I’m just spending my time making that five-year goals list. It’s not going to happen if I let fear of failure win.

Normally at this point in the article I’d tell you my plan. I’d list the steps and share the details. Instead, I’m just going to take a deep breath and go cross things off.

Let's Chat!

Lists, notes, complicated and colorful charts ARE great, but when do they stop becoming a help and start becoming a crutch? Try limiting your listing to 2 or 3 things and then choose one to complete. Give yourself a time frame and goal reward and give it a shot! Tell us about it here!

About Devin

devin_riggs.jpgDevin has a degree in education with a focus in English. She is working to publish her first collection of poetry while also learning the art of patience. Her passions include Doctor Who, penguins, hats and scarves, potatoes, dancing, photography, and making people happy. She believes in the healing powers of music, spending time in the great outdoors, and a good night sleep.




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  • commented 2014-11-09 04:42:10 -0800
    We must have been separated at birth! There is something about the pen to paper that makes me feel in control. However it is more so the lack of control and the lack of doing that fuel the lists. If I write it down it’ll get done right? Wrong! I need to shift my focus just as you have done.. Now I must go cross things off!

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