Friday, January 04, 2008


It's rather appropriate I posted my resolutions yesterday, since yesterday I also saw Sasha Cagen speak at Google. I have pretty much loved her ever since, long ago, I stumbled across her quirkyalone website and it resonated with me. (Yes, I did write an article about it for my Daily column back in the day, which I cringe while linking to) Her latest book is called "To-Do List," named after a now-defunct magazine and ongoing blog somewhat in the vein of PostSecret. I wasn't totally jazzed about the new book, just because for a while I was keeping up with the blog but it had infrequent posts and I got impatient. However, I was surprised by how good the book looked (I didn't manage to get ahold of a copy), and I was pleasantly pleased with Sasha herself. She is pretty and kind of chatty and normal and the bit of me that was always paranoid that "quirkyalone" could be a coverup for "really weird" was satisfied by her human-ness. She sort of speaks with a slight self-conscious twist in her mouth, but she is a natural speaker, especially on the subject of to-do lists (she calls herself a to-do-listologist). Throughout the talk she highlighted a few lists from the book as well as some statistics she's gathered about list-making. It was one of those moments where every minute I had to turn to my friend next to me and say "Oh shit, I do that." The talk isn't posted on YouTube yet (I'll post it when it's up), but some highlights:

-List makers are predominantly, overwhelmingly female. It's around an 80-20 ratio of women to men.
-Around 60% of list makers cross off items on the list, and maybe around 30% check off the items. Some people even draw boxes and then put checkmarks in the boxes. (I do not do this. I am a crosser.)
-a shocking percentage of people (something like 50%) have written lists of what they are looking for in an ideal mate... and some actually reference it throughout their life & relationships

It made me think about the kinds of lists I make, and some of the lists I want to make. Isn't it odd that even my list-making is aspirational? I mean, I have thought many times about making those "what I want to do with my life" lists or "potential jobs for me" lists (I kind of did that in my resolutions), or "places I want to go in my life" lists. But I kind of think it would end up being depressing, or feel pointless. Why write the list if you aren't immediately going to implement it?

I stumbled across this website today that is a graphic demonstration of someone's doings throughout 2006 -- a "2006 Annual Report." (It's old news, I suppose, but it was in Jason Kottke's Best Links of 2007, where I found it.) It's reminiscent of the chart of relationships that was an Internet hit earlier this year, except, how on earth does this dude keep track of all this stuff? (Girlfriends are easier to remember than the numbers and brands of beer you drank in a whole year.) But anyway, it made me want to keep track of it... to encapsulate my year through visualized data. Which is such a strange way to think about life... it seems better spent living it than recapping it.

I think Sasha Cagen's on to something when it comes to these list-making instincts of ours. I don't write many more lists besides to-dos, but I think in list form sometimes. We are strange creatures, we humans.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that I am even weirder about list-making since I've always been a sucker for e-mail "slambook" type quizzes, now hiply known in the blogosphere as memes. You've seen some of those here, and I have a bunch I've been planning to get to stored up in my Google Reader. It never ends.

No comments: