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Tis the season of lists, is it not? It begins in December with a barrage of lists summing up the year coming to a close, as well as projections for what’s to come in the next. Just as that starts to peter out, we start getting the lists of goals, new habits and tasks. Lists, lists, lists! As far as the eye can see and the interwebz can access!

Lois models my whiteboard collection. I've tried writing tasks on her, but she doesn't erase as well.

Lois models my whiteboard collection. I’ve tried writing tasks on her, but she doesn’t erase as well.

Me, I’m a year-round lister. My daily routine revolves around three whiteboards (one for assignments, another for my plan for the week, and my daily tasks and notes), as well as my Gmail to-do list and iCal, and that’s not even getting into my collection of Google Spreadsheets. It’s not that I’m a super organized or anal retentive person. In fact, reality is such the opposite that I’ve learned I have to live by lists because my brain can’t be trusted on its own.

Still, I find myself apprehensive when it comes to the lofty season of Big Lists, thought it’s difficult to express why: I believe in long term planning. I love setting goals. But why is now the time to make them? Why is a year the right amount of time to allow ourselves to achieve something? And – I think most importantly, to me – what if I think of better ideas/shift priorities/come across other opportunities? What if a list of yearly goals somehow prevents me from recognizing and seizing them?

SPOILER ALERT. I am actually sitting down today to make 2014 goals for myself. These anxieties I have about long-term lists don’t prevent me from making them, nor pursuing the goals I include on them. Rather, it’s an exercise that gets me in the right mindset: Here’s a list of things that seem like good ideas right now, but I must remain vigilant. Life is always undulating around us. It catches us by surprise; it disappoints us. The most off-track I’ve ever gotten in life is when I’ve been so committed to a goal that seemed great when I set it, but caused me to make poor decisions in its pursuit.

That’s why, even in my daily torrent of lists, I set my goals on paper – er…erasable, white aluminum – and then empty my mind of them. Once they’re written down, I don’t have to obsess over them, but instead simply trot through them with plenty of brainspace left to see whatever else may come my way, reevaluate my goals, and move along. That’s why whiteboards are my preferred method of listing. They’re so easy to erase.

So off to a whiteboard to set goals for 2014 I go. Maybe I’ll reach them, or maybe they will turn out to be terrible ideas. I’ve come up with a lot of those. Or maybe the goals will be just fine, but something even better will come along. In which case, I’ll just wipe one idea away and replace it with another. Happy Editable New Year!

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