1. Get up. 2. Turn on computer

Are you a list maker?

I am; my husband is not. (This came out at our pre-marriage counseling with the pastor — this was about as revealing as it got.)

And no, I don’t make daily lists that start with “1. Get up.”

I make lists for two reasons: (1) It’s the only way I can keep track of things when I have a lot to do (mostly at work) and most importantly (2) I need to see progress. Progress is very motivating. I might have 20 things to do, but if I’ve already done 5 of them, at least I’m getting somewhere. Making progress is what keeps me sane.

I once read somewhere the first step to achieving a goal is to write down everything it will take to make it happen, then have at it.

I took that advice to heart when I decided I wanted to work for myself. Sadly, I can’t find the list anymore (written on a 3½” x 3½” square of paper), but I think it included things like: Research business structures (e.g., S-corp, sole proprietorship); Get tax information; Choose name and register it…very concrete and doable.

I do remember clearly the last thing on the list: Quit my job.

Ten years later, I’m pretty sure making that list was a big part of my success. It forced me to concentrate on one thing at a time and just do it.

Shortly after we moved into the house, I started a House List. It’s posted on our extra fridge in the basement (relegated there after we redid the kitchen and got a new fridge that doesn’t deserve to have ugly lists posted on it).

Here’s where it stands, almost four years later.


Lots of things crossed out; others we won’t get around to for a long time. And it’s  rather out of date. I don’t even have “Build powder room” on it, though that’s what we’ve been working on for months now. Nor does it adequately represent our biggest ongoing project, the front porch repair/sunroom addition.

I keep the list around to remind myself how far we’ve come. Maybe sometime I’ll add more projects, just so I can have the joy of checking them off and marking our progress.

I recently, just for fun, started a different kind of list. Not to-do’s for a change, but wishes, ranging from pie-in-the-sky (a Kindle) to mundane (a narrow leaf rake). Maybe on my birthday, Mike will pick an item from the list, or I can refer to something on it for our family gift exchange at Christmas.

I’ve refrained from adding things like “Retirement home in Tennessee mountains.” Besides, Mike just found this list that considers Pittsburgh one of 10 great affordable places to retire. (Who knew that PAT buses would factor prominently?)

Hmmm….speaking of retirement. That’s a goal we’re all aiming for, right? What would that “just do it” list include?

I’ll start it:

  1. Save $14,770 each year for the next 20 years.

I can probably stop there.

You will achieve a grand dream a day at a time,
so set goals for each day — not long and difficult projects,
but chores that will take you, step by step,
toward your rainbow. Write them down, if you must,
but limit your list so that you won’t have to drag
today’s undone matters into tomorrow.
Remember that you cannot build your pyramid in
twenty-four hours. Be patient. Never allow your day
to become so cluttered that you neglect your most
important goal — to do the best you can, enjoy this day,
and rest satisfied with what you have accomplished.
~ Og Mandino