Why am I collecting 33,000 handwritten task lists from women?

Short answer: 

To create a large-scale work of art and change the conversation about the stress, obligation and desire. 

The deep-dive, 4-minute answer: 

Since 2009, I’ve been mostly forging health & lifestyle turnaround strategies with women one-on-one. It’s incredibly soul-smooching work; and I still very much love it. Words like energizing and inspiring don’t even begin to describe how it feels when I hear about my clients’ successes. I swear glitter could shoot out of my ears and moonbeams could spray from my wrists all Spidey-style in those moments. Yet, most of my work emerges through private conversation. The work is largely invisible. Because I often work by phone or Skype in private spaces, I started to feel invisible in some ways, too. 

Then, the dreams of a making something with women’s task lists started. Initially, I woke up, thought that’s weird, and got on with my day. Yet, the dreams kept coming - sometimes literally waking me up in the early morning hours - with an image, idea or a snippet of a potential conversation. On repeat. 

Before dawn one morning in a Manhattan hotel room bathroom, I thought yes, but why? With that one question and some scrap paper, I scribbled for a couple of hours. I connected lots of seemingly random and unrelated dots. Below is a somewhat more organized (and legible) version of what I came up with that day. 

I wanted to find a way to:

  • further explore the patterns and questions emerging from all of those hours of conversation with women while respecting my clients’ wish to keep their personal business, well...personal. Spoiler alert: Women are fucking frazzled, overwhelmed by obligation, and often pretty damn isolated. Oh, and they think it’s only them struggling.
  • change the conversation about the stress of juggling obligation and desire using women’s task lists. How can doing that inform, connect and embolden women? 
  • do/make something creative, visible, social and experiential. For example, consider the difference between reading or talking about a chocolate cake recipe and seeing, smelling and tasting an actual chocolate cake. 
  • embrace my problem solving, analytical and organizational skills in a more playfully imperfect way. This project isn’t meant to be a scientific study; it’s an opportunity to just be open to the patterns that emerge from the process. The undeclared sociology minor in me is radically stoked by this idea.
  • help tone my asking for help muscle. Having to humbly ask 33,000+ women for their task list will certainly keep that muscle taut. 
  • practice receiving help from others. Let’s be honest: I pride myself on self-reliance and unconventional resourcefulness. Yet, I’ve realized how uncomfortable accepting help or support from others can be for me at times. This will be a personal challenge for me.
  • up-cycle and transform a normally discarded piece of paper imbued with women’s sweat equity. 

Maybe more reasons driving me will reveal themselves as I go. The dreams are still happening. More ideas show up almost every day. Considering this project is about maximum playful and minimum perfectionism, it’s time to start asking:

Women, may I please have your handwritten task list