Has anyone else ever gone to the store and realized you left your list on the fridge, but think you remember what you need, only to return home and find out that you bought everything except the one thing on your list that you really needed? That one thing is usually something like, say, toilet paper? Please tell me I am not alone here.

     I rely on my lists. My obsession with lists almost matches my obsession with research. Sticky notes are my best friends! I was so excited to find that I could have post its on my desktop so now my home screen looks like a patch work quilt of reminders.

     When I worked on my rough draft of THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM, and as I work on what I am writing now, I make to do lists from my character’s point of view. What would be the character’s top five things to get done in a day? It helps me to flesh out their personalities.

     I have always made lists, but making a list took on greater meaning to me shortly after my RSD diagnosis. I struggled to accept that pain now intruded on every hour of my day. I had to give up the career I worked so hard to obtain and worse- I could not be the active, involved mom or wife I once was. I sank into a depression.

     During this time, my doctor suggested that I make a list of things I wanted or needed to do each day.  I would get to check the item off with a feeling of accomplishment. Focus on what I could still do and not what I lost. Easier said than done, but I am a people pleaser (you had to see that coming didn’t you?), so I started on my list:

– wake up ( I might as well be sure there is always one thing I can accomplish immediately…and if I don’t get to check it off-it  won’t matter anymore anyway…)
– get my daughter ready for school (remember she was 4 at the time)
– make a grocery list (yes, I wanted to remember to make another list…)
– iron (who created a school’s jumper with so many darn pleats anyway?)

       The list went on with several more items. As you can imagine, there was no way I could accomplish over 20 items(yes 20) that I put on that list and the anxiety it caused only made my pain worse. I failed at making a list-where does one go after that??

        A very good friend suggested I limit the list to 5 things—genius! But her best advice– I needed to realize that the listed items would not define me as a good person/mom/wife/daughter. If I couldn’t get to all five, just move it to the next day. This Type A personality had a tough time accepting this sudden shift in my life that RSD delivered.

        However, after spending much time praying for strength, I wrote my new list:

 – wake up (Easy and still my best way to start the list)
– spend time with my family
– iron (or throw in dryer with wet towel and remove immediately)
– rest (another easy one, I had no choice)
– write

   That first year I had to accept my life had changed. I also found out that I hated change more than I thought I did(and I thought I hated it a lot). I have good pain days where I can push through most of it and manage to do an additional couple items not on that list. There continue to be bad pain days when wake up is the only item checked off on my list.

     To do lists are necessary for most of us over the age of say 9, but we have to resist the urge to focus only on the tasks to get done.  If we make ourselves so stressed about the tasks ahead, we might forget to enjoy the day we are Blessed with before the To-Do list even gets started. We can always shift a task to another day. Oddly enough my task of ironing still gets placed on the list for the next day, then the next day……

     What are your top 5 items on a To-Do list?  Please share below.


16 thoughts on “TOP 5 TO-DO LIST ITEMS

  1. Since I am way over the age of 14, I’m adding a post. (That way I don’t have to put on my list for tomorrow.)

    I like your blog, Kathleen and I like that you are struggling through what sounds like a gruesome disease with grace and humor.

    Have you read “Until I Say Goodbye?” It is a beautifully written book about a woman suffering with ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gerhig’s Disease. Good luck with your writing and with your lists.



  2. Beth says:

    I too used to have lists with 15 + items listed, and of course and the end of each day I wold be disappointed/discouraged that I did not get to most things.
    Now, especially after learning to “pace” myself as a coping technique in managing my RSD, prioritizing is extremely important.
    As you pointed out, some things are not negotiable – taking breaks (resting during the day). This is a must.
    I love your idea of putting wake up on my list, this way I am guaranteed to be able to check something off right away each day! Thanks


    • Thank you for visiting Beth. Yes, learning to pace ourselves with pain is difficult because our brains usually think they can continue to do what they once did and then the body says, “You want to do what?!” I am glad you liked my wake up item 🙂


  3. I am a list person for sure! My top 5 are: 1) talk–really talk–one on one with both boys daily 2) write something 3) do something sweet for the hubby 4) housework after school 5) make tomorrow’s list
    But, you’re so right. Our lists do not define us. Great post!


  4. Oh how I love the sense of accomplishment I get from a list, especially when I get to immediately cross something off it. Instant gratification! I know what you mean about pushing through, even when we shouldn’t be. It would be so much easier if we could ourselves grace!


  5. RolAnd says:

    Post it notes are a wonderful invention. There was a time when I was overwhelmed with the many day to day chores of owing a house. I ended up doing nothing because I did not know where yo start. A friend suggested I write one chore per note and paste them on the fridge. I was then able to choose the chores to do by importance or amount of time it would take or just what I felt like doing. As I completed the chores I stacked them in one pile before I knew it the chores got completed and I felt satisfaction in the pile of completed chores. I very much like the suggestion to add enjoy the day that should be my first chore of the day. Hope you have a wonderful day and enjoy your family.


    • Roland,
      You are so right. I too am not as overwhelmed when I remember to focus on thing to get done. And the feeling of accomplishment when you tear that post it off is pretty great too! 🙂


  6. Joan Y. Edwards says:

    Dear Kathleen,
    I enjoyed reading your blog post. On your list put do something fun for at least 10 minutes a day. Reward yourself for each item accomplished. I like to do things that take the shortest amount of time first. The energy that comes from completing one task might move me to the next.

    Celebrate you
    Never Give Up


    • Thank you Joan for pointing out that something fun should be on that list-I am going to add it to mine. I also try do the items with the shortest time too, especially on a rough pain day.


  7. I’m a list person too–but never thought of making a list for my characters. Great idea! I think at the top of my list should be, “Be thankful for waking up and getting X amount of hours of sleep.” Too often I meet the day grumpy or discontented with something or somebody! Thanks for this post.


  8. Kathy,
    I grew up in a house with a mom who kept a list going. I have to admit, I keep lists too. Sometimes, my mom accomplished things not on the list. When she discovered the project wasn’t listed, she added it, and then struck through it. Gotta admire that!


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