I feel a list coming on. It’s almost unavoidable, I’ve been surrounded by the things for the last couple of weeks and I have the urge to join in.
Lists, of course, serve two main purposes – they can either be determined calls to action and programmes designed to aid achievement, or wonderful displacement activity if you’re looking to create some evidence that you really are trying to get your life together even if you’re not convinced that you want to get that serious, not while there is still Quality Street to be scoffed and plenty of cold turkey in the fridge.
If your life partner is firmly in the ‘list as a force for good’ camp, you’ll know where I am coming from.
I have found myself ticking through lists galore in the month just gone – lists of Christmas card recipients, lists of Christmas card senders, lists of gifts, lists of ingredients for the family feast, lists of things I haven’t yet done which I promised to do.
That doesn’t mean that the list process is infallible – she’s been known to forget to add crucial items to the list, and it’s not for me to say that there isn’t a great deal of point in creating a detailed manifest of required shopping including specific measures of ingredients needed for a chocolate cheesecake if you then leave the list on the kitchen worktop and only discover that fact when you get to the shops.
No, it’s definitely not for me to say anything about that, because I have learned the hard way.
When I am forced to create a list, there’s a distinct process to follow.
First, I’m a traditionalist. Not for me a handy notepad, or a tablet computer’s jazzy app – I like to use the back of an envelope. It’s just the way I am.
For some reason, it also comforts me to start each item with a carefully constructed asterisk, hand-drawn to give me a bit of thinking space.
I’m quite capable of wasting so much time looking for the right sort of old envelope and a pen with a nice flow that by the time I have completed the first asterisk I have forgotten what the list is for in the first place, and that suits me fine.
But if we accept that we must make progress with this handy aide memoire, my next step is to decide which should be the first three items on it.
Importantly one of these should already have been achieved, but it should never be the first one written down.
That’s so you can score through it straight away – with a different coloured pen, naturally – and give yourself a flying start.
No list should include so many tasks that it cannot comfortably be accommodated on the back of said envelope, of course. Keep it to single figures is my advice.
OK. ground rules clear? Appropriate materials to hand? Then let’s begin.
Item 1: Check Quality Street tin for to see if there are any of those big purple ones left...