Add Cagen’s ‘To-Do List’ to the top of your ‘to-read’ list, 5/5 stars

'To-Do List'  by Sasha Cagen

‘To-Do List’
by Sasha Cagen

List-making seems to be one of those love-hate things.  Those who make lists rave about how the practice makes them more sane, productive, and better at making decisions.  Those who don’t make lists seem to talk more about how the practice encourages procrastination, limits options and brings more confusion than clarity in determining a course of action.  I can see both sides.  When I’m overwhelmed with the balance between time and tasks, I make lists.  They help me identify the to-dos swirling around in my head.  Once I write them down, I can make better choices about prioritizing my time so I accomplish those things that are most important to me in the time I have available.  On the other hand, I can spend more time making the list than actually accomplishing anything on the list.  At this point, I can just crumple the list and throw it in the garbage because all of the time I had available to accomplish things has mysteriously vanished.  Oy!

Cagen’s goal in “To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us” is not to instruct on the how or why of list-making.  If you’re seeking guidance in this area, then this isn’t the book for you.  If, on the other hand, you’re intrigued by the practice and want to sneak a peek into the lives of others through reading actual lists then you’ve come to the right place.  I love the lists, yes, but what I enjoy more is that Cagen puts the lists in context so you can more fully understand the list maker at the point in time when the list was written.  This is an exploration into the idea that lists reveal more about us than just words on a piece of paper.  Our lists can be like journal entries marking the path from where we once were to where we are now.

Each chapter contains lists on a particular topic, a quote from the list’s author putting the list into context, a ‘DIY List Idea’ and (my favorite) a one-liner by the author on something clever in the list.  The chapter titles are (1) daily, (2) life, (3) New Year’s resolutions, (4) dream jobs and bored at work, (5) ideal mates, (6) relationships, (7) sex, (8) obsessive-compulsive, (9) health and sickness, (10) family and friends, (11) happiness and hates.

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