The What, When & Why of Lists

The What, When & Why of Lists

“What is a list, after all, but a fleeting gesture of permanence in a world that never ceases to change?”
— Jessica Helfand

Summary of a few articles on the importance of lists, presented as part of the Information Visualization module at NID, Bangalore.


Rasagy Sharma

July 05, 2013


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    “What is a list, after all, but a fleeting gesture

    of permanence in a world that never ceases to change?” — Jessica Helfand
  2. 2.

    1.What is a list? Noun A number of connected items

    or names written or printed consecutively, typically one below the other. Verb Make a list of: "I have listed four reasons below". First used by Shakespeare in Hamlet, where Bard refers to “a list of landlesse resolutes”.
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    3.Why do we need lists? “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, and to create order.” — Umberto Eco “Lists really get to the heart of what it is we need to do to get through another day on this planet.” — Scott Schaffer
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    3.Why do we need lists? “In contemporary culture, we rely

    upon expert-driven lists to spare us the tedium of option paralysis.” — Jessica Helfand “We live in a hyper-controlled society, with objectives to fulfill. Tolerance of uncertainty is very hard to live with.” — Stéphanie Hahusseau
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    4.Shopping Lists “The shopping list — a willy-nilly compendium that

    mirrors the unparalleled idiosyncrasies of its maker.” — Jessica Helfand
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    5.To-do lists “Lists today are a way of trying to

    get through the day, because we are losing a sense of time.” — David Viscott
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    5.On To-do lists Lists, like To-do lists… ü  Embrace both

    duty (what we’re meant to do) and aspiration (what we yearn to do) ü  Are an essential human activity — a way not just of keeping track but also of imposing order on what would otherwise be chaos. ü  Are a sign that we are capable of organizing ourselves, and of rationalizing our daily lives. “Half of us write something down on a list after we’ve completed it, just to feel a rush when we come to cross it off.” — Dr. Timothy Pychyl
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    6.Why do To-do lists fail? 1: Too Many To-Do's One

    person typically has at least 150 different tasks at a time.
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    6.Why do To-do lists fail? 2: How We're Making To-Do

    Lists Zeigarnik effect: That intrusive pestering from uncompleted tasks and unmet goals hanging around in your mind.
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    6.Why do To-do lists fail? 3: We Give Ourselves Too

    Much Time Students who had longer to finish three papers performed worse than those who had externally-imposed or self-imposed deadlines that were evenly spaced and earlier.
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    6.Why do To-do lists fail? 4: The Future is Full

    of Unknowns, Interruptions, and Change Sometimes the to-do list just can't handle the changes that crop up because we can't tell the future.
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