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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Walter

My Petty Little Dictator by Anna Rose Walter

If you search online,“how to be productive,” most likely many articles will come up on the helpfulness of writing lists. These websites claim that it focuses the mind, gives

one a better memory, makes one feel accomplished and helps one move forward in his life. During the last couple of years, aesthetic bullet journals with lists have become the fad and many people spend an hour, even more, every week in keeping one. I recently asked myself the question, “is it worth it? Do lists actually help that much?”

The day I learned to hold a pen in my hands, I started to write pretend lists in long lines of unintelligible scribble: lists on what I had to do that day, lists of all the books I owned, the names of all my dolls, etc. Years later, when I started doing schoolwork I would write lists of all my assignments of the day. I would even go as far as to write the exact time I needed those assignments done.

I have been doing lists for years now, and even though I have found them quite helpful, they have their downside. While getting organized is certainly a help, the list of the day fast became for me a kind of petty dictator, telling me in a high pitched, squeaky voice what and when to do something. The dictator would order me to do my English homework at 9:00 in the morning, and I would have to give a salute, hoist up the flag, shoot the cannon and start doing my English homework exactly at 9:00 a.m., on the dot. And if I didn’t follow orders—well, one does not ignore a dictator’s orders.

Writing lists also has ironically turned me into a procrastinator. Instead of writing down a few things of great importance I had to do in the day, I would write down easy, fast or fun things to do: make my bed, eat lunch, read, etc. I would wait to write the truly important things to do for a later time—when I felt like it. Can anyone blame me? If one has a choice between a annoying, petty dictator shouting out orders to do laundry and him shouting orders to leisurely drink a latte with a biscotti, what does one choose? Consequently, on my procrastinating days I did little that was important and I was left with a full list of crossed off nonsense.

But the petty dictator is not all that bad as he seems to be. He does organize my day. I get more things done. His orders also keep me from stressing out over all the activities I have to do. When I have a lot to do, or think I have a lot to do, my duties make a racket in my brain, swimming loose and unorganized. When I put them down on paper, they keep in one place. They seem less noisy and quite docile sitting there on a neatly-written bulleted page.

There is a kind of list, however, that many people do not keep, but is even more important than, say, sweeping our room by 1:00 p.m. I have found that a list for desired accomplishments for the year have helped me so much in planning for the future. Writing down, for instance, a Bible reading plan or a goal to become a proficient watercolor painter, believe it or not, has directed me. I find, too, that the dictator's voice is not as petty and shrill in these lists, as the goals are much more far-reaching, significant and life-changing.

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