So you've got things you want to do. Whether it's the laundry, the dishes, or your latest Evil Plan to dominate the universe, you have to keep track of them all. A checklist is a nice, handy, quick way... most of the time.
Some people take their listmaking just a little too seriously. They may plan every tiny part of the day on a list, right down to the things most people won't even bother with because they're just that obvious, such as "go to sleep". Or they may start to see completing the list as a goal in itself, have already completed all of the tasks except one, and spend extenuating effort trying to complete that last one. This tendency is obviously Truth in Television for many.
This is usually Played for Laughs in fiction, especially with comic villains.
The lists they make likely involve at least one trope of the Index of Lists.
- The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye:
- Ultra Magnus, at least early on in the series. In issue 13, he tries (emphasis on "tries") to strike up a casual conversation with Swerve, who was talking about racing statistics. His attempt at joining in is derailed when he sees an out-of-place rivet, and goes to note it down.
- A decidedly villainous, non-humorous version with the Functionist Council, who insisted on cataloguing every possible alternate mode via the Grand Cybertronian Taxonomy, and then re-editing and re-cataloguing it all over again. "Editing" in this context being a euphemism for mass murder.
- Another non-comedic villainous version is the (always capitalised) List used by the Decepticon Justice Division. It's a list of targets - Decepticon rebels, deserters, defectors or just plain inconveniences the DJD are planning to kill in ridiculously cruel ways. Where it slips over from just an Enemies List into this trope is that apart from one incident, where they were out of control on a Fantastic Drug, they plan to kill the people on the List in that specific order; after all, Tarn is nothing if not a bureaucrat at heart. At one point Shockwave tries to buy his own life with the locations of 31 other targets of theirs and Tarn tells him nothing doing.
- Code Wings 3.0 has Cassidy make 119 to escape The School with her friends. The problem is that she finds different flaws with each one.
- In This Harry Potter fanfic, Harry has been transported to another world. After calculating he also went back several years, his version of Hermione sends him a book on assorted topics, 1 section on How to become a Dark Lord, 51 subsections on How to free the House Elves, 1 tiny paragraph on how to free Sirius Black. The table of contents alone is 37 pages long.
- Cats Don't Dance: Danny makes up a "success checklist" that details how he plans to make it big in Hollywood within a week.
Mon.: Go to HollywoodTues.: Get agentWed.: Get discoveredThurs.: Go to premiereFri.: Land a big part
- Bowler Hat Guy in Meet the Robinsons loves checklists and is often seen ticking off items in his, such as "Steal time machine", "Ruin science fair", and "Get that [comic book swearing symbols] boy". This leads to a rather tragic moment after his Evil Plan leads the world to be taken over by evil bowler hats in one alternate future. After fixing it, Lewis find his checklist and he has crossed out all of the Evil Plan items and added a new one: "?" It shows that he had no life apart from his petty desire for revenge on Cornelius Robinson for a minor childhood event.
- Monsters University: When Mike arrives at college, he has a checklist that includes "Ace my classes", "Graduate with honors" and "Become the greatest scarer ever".
- In Pooh's Grand Adventure, Rabbit refuses to take any route but that listed on their map (a map that Owl mostly made up). He even has a whole song about it, but the map gets torn in half and then impossible to interpret.
- In one of the Frog and Toad children's books by Arnold Lobel, Frog and Toad make a list of everything they plan to do on a trip. Unfortunately, while on the trip, they lose it, and feel as if they couldn't do anything now because the list is gone. Just when night is falling, one of them suddenly remembers the last item on the list: "Go to sleep". So they write it on the ground, cross it out, and go to sleep right there.
- The first Red Dwarf novel described Arnold Rimmer doing this repeatedly when he tried to take the officers' exams: he would meticulously create his study plan in such great detail that he ended up spending most of his time on it, then had to revise it for the time left, with the same effects until he had no time left for the actual studying. This is fleshed out from a gag in the third episode of the first season of the television show. It gets revisited in the final episode of Red Dwarf X, with his "Battleplan Timetable".
- In Palimpsest November makes lists about anything and everything, not all of them categories most people would even think of.
- Stranger to the Ground by Richard Bach is a story drawn from the author's experience as a US Air National Guard pilot in Europe. It includes material about the checklist Bach goes through both before and after the flight — before, to check out the aircraft and make sure it's ready to fly; after, to make sure everything is shut down for parking and to note any problems during the flight, for the mechanics to fix.
- Wax and Wayne: Lady Steris Harms is a Spock-ish lady who thrives on being Crazy-Prepared and itemizes important social engagements well in advance, complete with extensive contingency plans. Wax is a bit bemused when he learns that his spur-of-the-moment decision to go allomantically flying through the city and arrive at a gala late by way of an upper balcony was already predicted in her schedule for the evening.
- Gilmore Girls: Both Paris and Rory are sometimes seen writing excessive and very elaborate lists with carefully planned activities.
- Rory is making a list before graduating from Chilton, planning specific times for signing year books, writing a speech, visiting her grandparents and most importantly, studying for her finals.
- Paris covers four big whiteboards before graduating from Yale. They concern job fairs, scholarship opportunities and meeting with useful people. She also has several pieces of paper with either the same version of the list or with its variant.
- Lorelai swears by pro/con-lists for big decision making. When Rory gets accepted into three different Ivy League schools, Lorelai insists on making a pro/con-list for each of them.
- Emma from Glee has made a giant list of everything she needs for her upcoming wedding, including "purchase unmentionables" and "check for spotting on silverware". Interestingly enough it doesn't include anything about hiring wedding singers; it probably goes without saying that the glee club will fill that niche.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mayor Wilkins is a checklist sort of guy. At one point, he has a list as follows: call a temp agency, get a haircut, become invincible, and have a meeting with the PTA.
- Red Dwarf: Rimmer keeps spending all his time making study timetables instead of actually studying. See the Literature entry for more.
- The obsessive Monica from Friends. For example, when her husband Chandler asks her to help him find a new career, she fills in a huge binder with many, many options and possibilities. They're ordered alphabetically, and he loves the first one (advertising) so much that he doesn't want to see the rest. When Monica is appointed Phoebe's wedding planner, she acquires a radio headset and starts treating the wedding plan like a battle plan, complete with codenames and military time. She also has Chandler "scheduled for nudity at 2300 hours".
Monica: Groomsman, where is your bridesmaid? Broken arrow! We have a bridesmaid down! Oh, that's me!
- A sketch on The Kids in the Hall has a man so obsessed with completing the items on his list that it doesn't faze him when he is taken hostage by bank robbers. He just adds it to the list.
- Annie Edison from Community is occasionally seen making elaborate and long to-do lists. She has a huge binder for ideas and progress for their "Save Greendale" committee in season 6.
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Amy loves making lists and she has many, many binders from her various seminars and lectures. She has a laminated list of cruise itineraries for her romantic getaway with Jake and she's ready for "some nonstop totally scheduled fun".
Amy: All right, there are seven days until the wedding, so we are officially transitioning from the "Month of" binder to the "Week of" binder.
Jake: My goodness. They're getting bigger.
Amy: You should see the honeymoon binder.
Jake: Ooh. Is there a tab for sex stuff?
- Ava can be like this in Legends of Tomorrow. In "Ground Control to Major Sara", she has a checklist for what everyone should do to find Sara. Half of the team immediately say they're not interested and wander off to do their own thing — which is what she had on the list. She might be obsessive, but she knows her team.
- Johanna from Double Homework seems to be a downplayed example. She actually schedules times to play with herself, and the protagonist can come to realize that she’s watching his old skiing videos when she does this. What does this mean? You do the math. However, this obsession doesn’t extend to other areas of her life.
- In Kevin & Kell, Candace is really strict about procedures. In one story arc, Candace and her husband adopt a child, whose morning rituals, such as getting out of bed, brushing teeth and getting dressed, become strictly listed and timed. There are even lines on the floor of the child's bedroom detailing where to go in fulfilling the tasks! Granted, the adoptive parents in question are border collies, thus strongly oriented toward herding (and the adopted child is a lamb, thus what they're strongly oriented towards herding).
- In El Goonish Shive, Susan made a lengthy list of ways to avoid accidentally seducing Elliot.
- Simon from the Yogscast goes through phases of this when he thinks they aren't making progress. Averted in that the list usually gets forgotten almost immediately.
- Lewis: "Watch the rest of Xena season three"? Why's that on there?Simon: That's just a reminder, for when we're done.
- One listener of The Funny Music Podcast has assigned himself the task of maintaining a chart documenting who appears in each episode and periodically submits details about his findings.
- In Aladdin: The Series, the recurring villain Mechanikles is found to have a checklist with items like "Do dishes, do laundry, destroy world". The heroes even comment: "Boy, is he serious". Later, he adds "Destroy Aladdin" to the list, and wonders to himself whether he should do the dishes before or after he destroys the world. His obsession culminates in him writing "Retreat" into his list before retreating.
- Kim Possible's Arch-Enemy Dr. Drakken dreams up a great plan to Take Over the World, but later forgets it. To avoid this happening again, he starts writing everything he plans to do on note-cards. This bites him when he forgets to write down a crucial step of his next plan and so misses it out, fatally endangering himself, his sidekick Shego, Kim and Ron. At this point, Shego bails out and leaves him to it.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, one of Twilight Sparkle's habits is obsessive making of lists. Depending on the episode, this can be played as anything from her being nerdy to having extreme OCD.
- In the episode "Winter Wrap-Up", there's Twilight Sparkle's checklist for preparing for Winter-Wrap Up:
Twilight Sparkle: Scarf, check! Saddle, check! Boots, check! Spike refusing to get up and going back to sleep, check! It's a good thing I'm so organized.
- Shown to a great degree in "Look Before You Sleep", where Twilight is determined to throw her first slumber party literally by the book. It gets to the point where she is completely sidetracked when a tree falls into her house, trying to find out whether that's supposed to happen.
Twilight Sparkle: We'll do everything by the book. And that will make my slumber party officially fun!
- "Lesson Zero" opens with Twilight creating a checklist of the things she needs to make a checklist. Then the first thing she puts on her "to do" list for the day is to make said "to do" list. The final item on the day's "to do" list:
Spike: Triple-check checklist to make sure we didn't miss anything when we double-checked the checklist! Uh... check!
- In "It's About Time", Twilight starts panicking when she realizes that she scheduled her next month so thoroughly she left no room to schedule the month after that. By the end of the episode, she learns not to worry so much about the future and just deal with events when they come.
- In "Spike at your Service", some of this seems to have rubbed off on Spike, as he's made a list of things to do on his free day. Although the list only contains three entries which he works off in a minute (leaving several yards of blank paper).
- In "The Crystalling", Twilight gives Starlight a massive lift of instructions for how to reconnect with an old friend,, and Spike follows along to make sure the reluctant Starlight follows it to the letter. When Starlight succeeds by not following the list, Twilight feels like she'd failed as a teacher until Spike tells her that she should let Starlight discover friendship on her own, since that's how Princess Celestia taught her.
- In "Triple Threat", Spike has not only made a checklist of things to do to prepare for the arrival of Dragon Lord Ember, but a list of reasons he should be worried about the visit. Starlight Glimmer can't help but joke that Spike's been hanging around Twilight too long.
- Come "School Daze, Twilight takes Chancellor Neighsay's order to do everything by the book to such a literal extreme that there is (quite literally) no room for fun, making all of the students miserable. Starlight takes it upon herself to break Twilight out of it and reminds her that there's no greater expert on friendship than her, and the lessons should be built around her own desires, not those of Neighsay.
- In the holiday special "The Best Gift Ever", Twilight's list of things to do before the holidays is long enough to entangle several ponies into a Gordian knot of paper.
Rainbow Dash: Do we wanna know why you are wrapping up everypony in town!?
- In the episode "Winter Wrap-Up", there's Twilight Sparkle's checklist for preparing for Winter-Wrap Up:
- In the Gravity Falls episode "Double Dipper", Dipper compiles a long list mapping out a twenty-step plan to ask Wendy to dance. His photocopy-clones eventually lock him in a closet when he tries to deviate from the plan.
- Baljeet from Phineas and Ferb is like this, at least once pointing out how the titular boys' project du jour would interfere with his schedule.
- SpongeBob SquarePants once bought a plan your own party kit, and tries to everything written on its list to the letter. He even tried to micromanage on what people should do in his party.
- Amanda in Milo Murphy's Law is like this, until one episode where she decides to loosen up for a change. The change was most likely due her learning to live with Milo's unusually bad luck.
- Total Drama: Courtney has a habit of obsessively making lists whenever she's stressed.
Courtney: (furiously writing on a notepad) Okay. "Eliminating Heather" is now number 1, 2, 3, and 5 of my top 5 goals. "Ripping out Duncan's eyebrow ring" is number 4.
- Pianist Richard Clayderman has admitted in an interview that he needs to write down his schedule for the day in a notebook, with a typical entry reading something like "Rise 5.30, breakfast 6.30, piano 8.30". He even ticks all the items off and makes a new list at the end of the day.
- Aviators, especially in larger and more complicated aircraft, have checklists for all manner of things, which can often specify minute details like which setting to leave a specific switch in. This will include fairly obvious things like making sure the engines are on or that the landing gear is in the desired position. The reason they do this is because planes have crashed in the past due to missing both minor details and major obvious ones, like the status of engines and landing gear. When it comes down to it, flying is a very complicated process, even for experienced pilots.
- Many surgeons use checklists for the same reason: to make sure they don't miss anything. Even the simplest surgical operation still carries substantial risk for the patient; doing everything in a pre-planned order, with each step confirmed and checked off as it's completed, is one of the ways that good surgeons minimize that risk.
- A subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder causes its suffers to become obsessed with diary writing and listing out everything they do/did/will be doing to the most minute detail. One such person, high school teacher Robert Shields, managed to chronicle 25 years of his life down to each 5 minute increment, a good portion of these entries were devoted to him describing his writing the entries. The diary was estimated at being longer than 30 million words when he was paralyzed by a stroke and could no longer continue.
Must... add... more... examples...