Empower yourself with a ‘to do’ list

In our society, “to do” lists are almost essential.
There is so much we want to accomplish . . . and so many dreams we have. There are birthdays to remember and appointments to keep.
Without a “to do” list, we surely would forget some very important things.
That said, there are all kinds of “to do” lists. And some people function very well without a written list at all—keeping everything in their memories.
For me, I would be lost without my list.
Of course, people have different ways of maintaining their schedules. But I’m always impressed by people like my brother, Jim, and my good friend, Jeannine, with their clean-cut “to do” lists.
Jim has a tiny folded piece of paper in his shirt pocket. His whole life is on that little list and he references it often. He is very efficient, checking off one task at a time and transferring unfinished work ahead.
Jeannine, on the other hand, writes a new list of six tasks every day. And she completes all six! Then it’s time for tomorrow’s list.
I’ve been writing “to do” lists for a long, long time yet I have not achieved their simplicity and clarity. And probably never will!
Over the decades, my list has become more and more complicated—until it now encompasses my entire life and is a huge word file on my computer.
Although this document contains my daily schedule, it’s more like a mini-encyclopedia, a creative writing corner, or a treasure of wisdom than a traditional “to do” list.
It contains important phone numbers, remedies for common illnesses, movies to watch, and hundreds of other tidbits.
Everything is organized so that, with the search function of the computer, any topic is at my fingertips. For instance, if I have trouble figuring out a topic for next week’s column, I have three options.
I can look through a large selection of quotes I have saved for just that purpose, a list of some of the books and e-books I own that may trigger ideas, or snippets of potential columns already started.
With those tools, it usually takes only a few minutes to come up with a topic.
Although my system works well for me, I surely wouldn’t recommend it for anyone else. A “to do” list has to be tailor-made.
Take, for instance, my husband. In 60 years of marriage, I never saw Howard write down one thing he had to do. He kept his list in his head and had a very productive life.
My son, who is an artist, keeps his “to do” list in his sketchbook. He has short-term goals, medium- and long-range goals, and a list of tasks for the week ahead.
Interestingly, my son’s college art teacher also valued “to do” lists–so much so that if he did something important that wasn’t on his list, he sometimes wrote it down in order to have the satisfaction of crossing it off as “done!”
Yes, “to do” lists work. How is yours doing? Does it need fine-tuning for your current lifestyle?
The right kind of planning makes the most of each day and keeps your priorities in the forefront.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@cox.net