mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

to do... write blog post....

While my friend BSOM and his wife t were over on Friday to play with nibbler, bsom noticed my "to do" list sitting on my coffee table. His main comments were on my inability to correctly spell "vacuum" (it's one of those words I always spell wrong, I know I've spelled it wrong, but I don't know how to spell it right) and my inclusion of the rather generic term "cooking" (I've been trying, once a week, to actually cook something for dinner, which I've been blogging about - this week was pesto, and you can expect a post about it in the near future).

But it got me thinking about to-do lists. They are interesting, because they serve two purposes - to remind you of things that you need to be done - giving you a sense of urgency, and to keep score of what you've done- giving you a sense of accomplishment.

Of course, things on to-do lists are seldom enjoyable. Nobody puts fun stuff on there, because they want to do those things and don't need prodding. And if the things on there are so important, why do you need to be reminded? Mine contained a number of less-than-fun household chores - laundry, vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, getting a haircut. I accomplished most of them, although I think I'm going to put off cleaning the bathroom until tomorrow night.

But it raises the question - why do we need to-do lists? If the things are so important that they NEED to be done, I should be able to do it without a misspelled list scrawled on a piece of scrap paper. On the other hand, if they are unimportant enough that I can forget to do them, do I really need to do them.

They are mostly tasks I've put off, because I've been busy with other things the last few weekends - community yard sale, start of school stuff with work, ect. But next week is a two-hamfest weekend, so if I didn't get stuff done this weekend, it would have to wait another two weeks.

But once again, if it's so important my floor be vacuumed and my hair be shorn, why do I have to write it down (other than that, since I'm single, I don't have a wife/girlfriend to remind me to do stuff). And if I decide I would rather watch TV or read a book or sleep or blog than do housework, isn't that a rational decision?

Well, probably not. If anything, a to-do list is an attempt to balance short-term wants and long-term wants, to provide incentives to satisfy long-term wants. I might rather watch Property Ladder reruns today, but I'll regret it next week if someone drops by and notices that my floor is covered by a thick layer of kitty litter and lint.

We often need to trick ourselves to satisfy our longer-term wants - think 401k and other retirement accounts, where we save money because we never see it - it comes out of our paycheck, so we get used to it not being there - but if it was in our paycheck and we had to save it, we probably wouldn't. To-do lists are a little bit alike - they guilt us into doing those things that we know we should do, even though we don't want to.


At 11:24 PM, Blogger tralatrala said...

man, did you see that Property Ladder where the father of the family passed away? that was a depressing episode.


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