To-do lists, shopping lists, Santa’s list – what binds these seemingly mundane words together? It’s not merely a collection of words written under each other; it’s the representation of tasks, actions, and in some cases, complex projects. Let’s delve into the essence of a “list” and question the simplicity we often attribute to it.

The Purity of a Shopping List:

A shopping list is perhaps the most straightforward example of a ‘list.’ Each item – milk, bread, wine – can be systematically checked off once acquired. The satisfaction of completion is immediate and tangible, making it a pure and unadulterated form of list-keeping.

The To-Do List Paradox:

However, the term “to-do list” seems to mislead us. It implies a linear, checkbox-ticking progression, but in reality, it often encompasses a series of mini-projects, each with multiple tasks and activities. Take the simple task of “check emails,” for instance.

Unraveling “Check Emails”:

How many of us have “check emails” on our to-do lists? It sounds straightforward, but the actual process is a multifaceted journey. Opening the inbox, sifting through spam, responding to selected emails, and deciding on the urgency of others – all of these are integral parts of the overarching task.

The Unfinished Business:

Consider this – you open your inbox, respond to a few emails, mark others unread for later, and flag a few more for follow-up. Does this completion of individual tasks equate to crossing “check emails” off your to-do list? Not quite. The deceptive nature of the to-do list lies in its failure to acknowledge the complexity of the tasks it encapsulates.

Mini-Projects Within Lists:

The to-do list, in reality, is a documentation of mini-projects, each housing several intricate activities. Completing a project isn’t a linear process; it involves numerous steps, decisions, and sometimes, unforeseen detours. Acknowledging this complexity allows us to redefine the way we approach our daily tasks and the expectations we set for ourselves.


Lists are not merely collections of words; they are blueprints for actions, often concealing intricate processes beneath their seemingly simple exterior. Whether it’s a shopping list or a to-do list, the key lies in recognizing the complexity within and appreciating the journey of completion. So, the next time you glance at your to-do list, remember, it’s not just about crossing off items – it’s about acknowledging the intricate dance of tasks and mini-projects that make up your day.