Mastering the to-do list


There is an art to creating a proper to-do list, I have found through many years of sharpening that skill while at times falling far short of the things I hope to accomplish.

I don’t remember for sure when it really started, but it’s a now a tendency that’s become a hard-fast habit.

Take for example this edition of the paper. It started last Tuesday just after we polished off the April 12 edition. At the time I’m writing this column mid-week, the story list is fairly short and there is still lots of white space on my page. Sometimes the list begins before we even finish that week’s edition. In those instances, it’s something that has arrived after deadline, so we are grateful to have the beginning of the coming week’s edition.

Each day the list grows and often fills the page of my tablet. Some things get lines squiggled through, meaning that’s not going to happen this week. There are little notations about photos, and if one of our freelancers is doing a story; stories are grouped by type in different areas of the page.

The best entries, though, are the ones that have a single line through them signifying all is done and it’s ready for the next stage in creating yet another week’s newspaper. I still have the feeling of accomplishment and wonder every time we manage to put out another edition.

My list making is certainly not restricted to work, though. I create lists at home too. If you’ve ever seen me in the grocery store, you know I live by lists when shopping. If I don’t have one, I wander around the aisles like a lost goose. I have fine-tuned the aspect of my system, though, for when there is a short list and I’ve rushed out the door without putting it on paper. I alphabetize items in my mind, and then make an acronym from the first letters of each item and then repeat it mentally like a mantra. It’s really great when the letters spell a word. I proudly shared this system years ago with my former co-worker Gary Edwards, thinking I would impart a bit of my own wisdom on him for a change. “You would,” he said as he emphasized the adverb and grinned, “do that.”

The lists at home form on Post-It notes if they’re for a short time-frame. I’ve wondered if my husband thinks I’m mentally disturbed, sometimes, for the things I put on my lists. To his credit, if he does, he doesn’t say so. Then there are the more involved lists for Saturdays with tasks that sometimes slide in to Sundays. (Though my lists are shorter, or at least different, now that hubby’s retired.)

However, I’ve learned not to get too ambitious with those lists – to gauge what can reasonably be accomplished in the time I’ve got available. A well-made list is one that contains things that are “do-able” in the targeted time. The best part of making a list is marking something off, maintaining what’s left of my sanity, and after it’s completed, spending the evening watching the sun set between the trees, sipping some iced tea and savoring the sweet satisfaction of accomplishment.


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