Lists save me.
Yes, ultimately the work of the cross has saved me. Ultimately God’s forgiveness of my sins has saved me. Is saving me.
But, there is a very real sense in which making lists save me as well. Like insulin saves a diabetic. Like nitroglycerin saves someone in the throes of a heart attack.
I can’t get by without them.
They order my day. They push me when I get mired. They show me accomplishment and progress, which spurs me on.
I have several smaller lists that I use on a need-to basis–these cover items that I need to do weekly or monthly, or just occasionally in special situations. Like packing for business trips. I have a list, stored in Evernote, for packing. And I rarely deviate from it.
I also have four major lists that I use every. single. day. Ok, maybe occasionally I forego one, or two, or on really tough days, all three. But that is a rarity.
List: Daily Routine
In terms of sheer productiveness and sanity, this list keeps me moving forward. I keep it, as I do all my lists, in Evernote, and it is the first thing I open after prayer/study and checking work email to make sure there isn’t an urgent task that needs to be tackled. While my third list (below) is the foundation–the absolute bedrock–of my day and life, this list frames each day. It consists of 4 sections:
- Morning Routine
- Daily Routine
- Before Bed Routine
- Daily To-Dos
This is where I list all the things that make up my “every” day: Sweep the floor. Do a load of laundry. Exercise 30 minutes. One hour of writing. Clean desk. Empty Dishwasher. I even have “Get Dressed” on there. That may sound ridiculous, but those of you who may have battled clinical depression or other challenges know that it is far from ridiculous. Marking these items off my list every single day does more for my mind than I can explain. There is a book titled “Do Something” by Miles McPherson. I don’t think I ever read it; I just remember seeing its cover each time I worked Lifeway. I have no idea what the book is about, but there is a lot of wisdom in that short title. When I don’t know what to do next, this list tells me. Just do the next thing. And the next.
This list is reserved for Action Items that fall under my responsibility. For example, right now on my list I have the following:
- Return tables
- Set up collaborative meeting with illustrator for second children’s book
- Send By-laws to 127WW Administrative Subgroup
- Do Taxes
- Plan Outer Banks/Tim’s Boot Camp Trip
These are all items that I need to work on as I get time to. If they are urgent, they get moved to the top of the list and placed in my calendar with reminders. If they are not urgent, I work on them in those 15 minute windows of time, such as when I take a lunch break. Sometimes this list feels overwhelming: It’s a bit longer than what I’ve shared here. But if I don’t capture these Action Items in Evernote, they get lost. Lost items do not get done.
My Day Zero Project list is where I set my longer term goals. It is actually a website that helps you track 101 goals in 1001 days. I dream big there. Here is just a sample of items I’m tracking:
- Reach My Goal Weight
- Ask 40 Friends to suggest one book, read them all
- Travel Somewhere by Train
- Run the Color Run
- Write a Book
- Move to Montana
I have 80 items on my list so far, with 780 days left. I’ve reached 20% of my goals completed. Each goal comes with the ability to attach progress notes, pictures and files. I can quickly glance and see which items are completed, which items are in progress, and which items haven’t been started yet. I don’t work on this list every day, but I open it once a day to quickly review so that these goals are never far from my mind. You can make your own Day Zero Project List by clicking on those words above.
My Most Important List
While listed last here, this list–like mentioned above–is the bedrock to my existence. That sounds dramatic, but there is no other way to describe it. It actually consists of 4 lists that I use for Bible Study/Prayer/Writing early each morning. It’s the first thing I open when I get up, usually anywhere between 5 and 6 am. Don’t be impressed by that; I’ve always been an early morning person. Or a late at night person. Or a middle of the night person. Ok, so sleep can be a bit challenging for me. Regardless, of when I rise, these lists are where I go. They were shared with me several years ago when I was desperate to know if God was real and, if He was real, if He saw and knew who I was. These lists helped pave the way to solidifying those things in both my mind and my soul. They consist of the following four sub-sections:
Each list contains scriptures that have become like old, flannel shirt to me. Familiar. Comforting. Reassuring. That’s not to mean they are all easy. They are not. Even after studying them several times, they still have a kick to them, especially those centered around both Confession and Adoration. This list prods me to the daily writing of my prayers. It keeps me consistent in praying for others–not “Prayer Request List” prayers, but earnest, focused prayer. I don’t tell people I’m praying for them unless I’m actually praying for them, and this is the avenue I use for that. These lists also send me into deeper study of certain passages. I have to be careful about that, though, because I’m much more comfortable studying than interacting with God on a personal level. But the study aspect is important, too.
Is this list a sure-fire formula that I will experience God or commune with Him (whatever that is supposed to mean) each morning? No, it is not. There are many mornings that I “feel” nothing. That I don’t sense His presence. But that doesn’t preclude this early morning meeting with God, no matter what the outcome or “feeling” from working steadily on my mind/soul. It. Just. Does. I don’t understand it. And I’ve given up trying.
There are times that I don’t use Adoration/Confession/Thanksgiving/Intercession in the mornings. Sometimes I use other things; reading a book of the Bible in one setting, or sometimes I am wrecked enough that the morning consists of just writing out scripture–turning the words over and over in my head and on paper until I am settled. But many mornings my soul is focused on these four things. They’ve become a lifeline. Not my life, although I can certainly slide down that slope of legalism so easily. I’m good at that. But they help me remember that God is my life. There is no other.
There is not magic formula. I wish there was. You can read my writings on Checkbox Christianity for my thoughts on that. Good gracious, I wish there was a formula. A works-based salvation, even. But there is not.
Even though there is not, there is something to be said for routine. For measurable, trackable routine. I track everything. How many calories I eat. How many steps I take in a day. What books I read. I know that today is Friday, which means I need to clean out my car. It sounds rigid, controlling. Non-spontaneous. But it’s what I need.
I can’t deny the effects using lists have had on my life. I’ve always used lists, even when I was a little girl. I kept a list of my sins, even. And a catalog of my favorite stickers from my sticker collection (remember those?) I regularly inventoried my books. So, keeping lists come naturally to me. But in recent years, they have become more than natural, they’ve become life-saving.
If you’d like more information on how to set up lists, particularly My Most Important List (Bible Study/Prayer), please send me a message. I’d love to share ideas with you and introduce you to the tools that have been vital to me.