I love lists in every form, whether by me or by other people. I was crushed to realize that I’d missed the Morgan Library’s recent exhibition, Lists: To-dos, illustrated inventories, collected thought and other artists’ enumerations. I really wanted to see that.

I was enchanted to see Phil Patton’s piece in The New York Times on Our Longing for Lists. The piece was illustrated with the image of Johnny Cash’s to-do list (which, by the way, reportedly sold at auction in December 2010 for $6,250).

Here’s the list. On a sheet printed with the words, “Things To Do Today!” Johnny Cash wrote:

Not smoke

Kiss June

Not kiss anyone else




Not eat too much


Go see Mama

Practice piano

In the section marked NOTES at the bottom, he wrote

Not write notes

I was gratified to see that Johnny Cash follows one of my Secrets of Adulthood: Every to-do list should include a few items that can be accomplished in the next five minutes. Important for morale. And even Johnny Cash had to practice piano.

It was interesting to see that “Worry” was on the list. Most people try not to worry; I’d be very curious to learn why Johnny Cash wanted to worry, and what he intended to worry about. Or maybe he was thinking “Not eat too much” and “Not worry,” and just wrote it down that way.

How about you? Do you find to-do lists helpful? Do you keep them on paper or 0n a device? I still use paper.


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