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  • July 2013
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What’s the Big To-Do about Making Lists?

to-do-list-nothingToday, like most days, I woke up thinking, “Oh crud.” This is usually because I realized I forgot to do something the day before or because something snuck up on me (like this blog post).

I’m just thankful that I have the benefit of an adult brain, or it might be a whole lot worse. Neuroscientists have shown that the teen brain, even at the level of neurons, is highly disorganized.

For help, I’ve turned to the good old stalwart of disorganized people everywhere: the to-do list.

But what makes the to-do list such a stalwart in the first place? The famous Italian novelist and semiotician Umberto Eco has one idea:

The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order — not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible?

It’s true, that when I think about my day, and the many twists and turns it may take, I find great comfort in being able to see things ordered simply and neatly. And waiting to be crossed off (I hate to imagine what that signifies).

Thankfully, when it comes to “to do” lists, there have been lots of digital options that sync across phones and the web, so I never have to worry about accidentally losing my paper list (which happens) or my phone battery dying because I forgot to charge it, leaving me with no idea what I’m supposed to do that day (which also happens).

One of the most popular and well-reviewed has been Wunderlist, a freely downloadable app and site that doesn’t just let you make lists, but also organize each task into groups like, school, home, work, etc.
But if you want to train your brain to do the work for you, there’s a book for that: Brain Training: The Complete Visual Program, by James Harrison.

This book has all kinds of fun visual puzzles that will stimulate all kinds of areas of the brain and hopefully help get those neurons working in sync!

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main

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