Are all the items that you MUST complete at the beginning of the term buzzing through your brain like gnats? Are those gnats colliding with other New Year’s gnats….exercise, eat healthier, clean the closets, learn Greek….that are also circling your mental airport like planes without air traffic control? If you, like me, are finding yourself awake at 2 a.m. thinking about all the things you really, really need to do right away, first thing tomorrow, without delay, then I have a suggestion for us both: Make a list.
Several years ago, I read a review of Write It Down, Make it Happen: Knowing What You Want and Getting It by Henriette Anne Klauser. As a veteran of many trips down the self-help aisle, I was more than skeptical about the magical powers of list-making. But I traded my bucks for the “magic beans,” plunged into the book, and soon found myself staring at a personal beanstalk. Suspending disbelief, I began to make lists, both long range and short term, and found that stuff suddenly started getting done.
I had, of course, made lists before…grocery lists, study lists, vacation lists. But they were typically short-term, mundane items. With Ms. Klauser’s encouragement, I began making lists of things that I wanted to do that were longer-term and unbound by the constraints of what seemed possible at the time. (This was before “bucket list” entered the lexicon. Besides, I wanted to frame these things not as a prelude to dying, but as a part of living.) I’ll spare you the personal information, but some things happened that bordered on the miraculous.
So now I make lists. I grab those pesky mental gnats and stick them firmly onto the flypaper of my mind by jotting them down, either literally, or, more recently, digitally. I have previously mentioned the wonders of the “Reminders” and “Lists” apps for iPhone. I particularly like the “Tasks Complete” function on the “Reminders” app….so satisfying to see the number of tasks completed.
Most of us who teach at the secondary level have been making lists for as long as we can remember, but we shouldn’t assume that all of our students have figured out how to harness the power of lists. In Essential Study Skills, author and educator Linda Wong offers the following advice to combat procrastination:
“Prioritize and stick to the order. When you feel overwhelmed or overextended, make a list of tasks that must be done. Use the ABC method to prioritize them by their importance or prioritize them by completion date requirements. Tackle the high-priority tasks first. Schedule time on your weekly schedule to work on these tasks.”
Great tactic to share, great strategy to model, and great advice to take to heart.