Lists, lists, lists …

Cristina and I have done quite some travels in our joint and separate pasts. One practicality that we share is the use of lists to prepare for the trips: packing lists, to-do lists, last-day-preparations lists and last-minute lists.

We use them now too to prepare for the sabbatical. The sabbatical wish list is just one of them. A very important one, but not the only one. Actually, have you noticed how many lists we already have produced so far in this blog? Here are some tips on how to go about with lists. It’s not about what you should put in them, like ‘toothbrush’, but how you make them and let them help you. The following draws a lot on my experience with my packing list, but I am sure it applies to other applications. While I wrote the below, I realized that it clearly also applies to recipes.

Start making the list long before you need it

Lists are handy to remind you of what not to forget at the moment you need to remember. Obviously, at the moment you need the list, you are not going to remember everything that should go on it, so don’t make the list just before you need it. After all, if you were able to think of everything at that moment, you wouldn’t need it.

Sounds obvious perhaps but I want to bet that you usually begin too late. You need to give your brain the time to do the work. In particular, you need to give your subconscious brain the stress-free time to let it produce the items that have to go on the list. And when an item suddenly pops into your mind, then write it down immediately.

It is a living thing

Frank’s packing list from 2002

Lists not only get filled best over time, they also get emptied over time. In other words, they evolve, they live. Don’t be square or strict, thinking ‘once it’s on the list it has to stay there’. The world changes all the time and your list may have to be adapted accordingly.

The longer you keep a list the more likely you’ll notice that this is the case. Maybe you were a hiker once and your packing lists contained typical items like ‘tent’, ‘light-weight outdoor stove’, ‘lighter’ and ‘Swiss army knife’. Then you grew a bit older and started to enjoy Airbnb holidays or minimalist survival trips and suddenly tent and stove were not so needed anymore, but the lighter and the knife stayed.

Do maintenance – all the time

Because it is an evolving thing, you need to update it. Demagogic non-sense, but you get the point, right? Again, don’t wait until the last moment, but update it as soon as an idea pops up. The best times for that are actually during and right after the event that the list is for, because then you get confronted with and clearly remember the consequences of having something on … or not on the list – passport.

For example, I’m trying to train myself to check my packing list when I am unpacking my suitcase or backpack. Did I really use this item? Did it served its purpose or was it a waste of my energy to drag it with me all the time? Obviously, some items stay on the list as safety or backup, even though I hope to never have to use them.

Maintenance also includes keeping some order in the list if it is a long one. Put stuff together that somehow belongs together. Should I mention the use of headings?

Keep them and re-use them

You may think, ‘I am going to do this only once’, so why bother with the updating? Because you’re probably wrong. You may not do the exact same thing again, but most likely, you’ll do something similar again. A holiday packing list, comes in handy as a starting point for a list for a longer stay away, which in turn becomes a base for your sabbatical packing list.

Well, that’s more or less it. Good luck and all feedback is welcome.

The list of lists for our sabbatical

Okay, here is the list of lists for our sabbatical. Remember, it is a living thing, so come back to this post to check if it has changed. I’ve updated the list (May 2019) and ordered it according to time.

  • One-year-in-advance to-do list
  • Sabbatical wish list
  • List of numbers (important data about insurance, telephone numbers, document numbers et ceteras)
  • To do’s before leaving (apply for visa, get vaccinations, update packing list, update list of numbers)
  • Packing list
  • To do’s up to the last day before leaving
  • Last-day / last-minute to do’s


One thought on “Lists, lists, lists …

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