I Do Declare: Checklists are my life

storm-0914-icon-check-13I confess. I’m something of a to-do list fanatic. Give me some lines with checkboxes and I’m in heaven. This is how I keep track of everything in my life.

Over the years I’ve looked into a lot of different systems. And while I haven’t ever found one system that works, I have discovered that I can pull pieces of many different systems and make them work for me.

And that’s what it all comes down to – what works for the individual.

I offer here what’s been working for me (i.e., my compilation of various systems) in the event any of you out there want to take this and incorporate pieces of it for yourself.

This is what it looks like:


I track six days’ worth of activities, and my week is Monday–Sunday, so Saturday and Sunday are lumped together.

After keying in the specific dates (i.e., WEEK OF 7/6 – 7/12), I list in order of importance:

Row 1 – Most Important Things (MITs). These are, as stated, most important. They’re the things that will move my career forward, win the deal, give me a sense of accomplishment, etc. If I accomplish nothing else during the week, I want to hit these.

Row 2 – Tasks. These are not as mission-critical as the MITs, but they’re things that must be done, so I don’t want to lose sight of them.

Row 3 – Routine Items. These are everyday things that I might forget if I get too busy. Plus, I like checking them off. On my list, I have things like doing blog posts, exercising and taking vitamins. (Yes, I am prone to forget to exercise and take vitamins. Seeing it in print is a good reminder.)

Below the three to-do rows is where I list info on my current projects to keep them in front of me.

At the bottom are two “parking lots” where I keep track of things that need to get onto the calendar (i.e., usually into the MIT or Task rows) eventually and the list of long-term projects (e.g., pruning the berry plants, which I won’t do until the Fall).

The page is laid out on 8.5×11, landscape. The gap in the middle of the grid allows you to fold the paper without creasing over any text.

For some people this might look like overkill to the Nth degree. But it’s a system that works really well for me.

If any of you would like a free Word version of this to tinker with on your own, I’m happy to share. Just send me an email at: info <at> gowriterightnow.com (with the @ symbol instead of “<at>”).


I Do Declare: Oil is good for us

Olive oilSometimes the questions can nag at us: What are we called to do? Are we actually doing what we were called to do? And the most distracting question of all: How do we know? (Along with its sequels: But how do we know that we know? And how do we know that we know that we know? – etc. until the cows come home.)

I used to torture myself with questions like that until I discovered this reasonable and reassuring way to know:

Check the oil.

 I’m sure that sounds a bit strange, so I’ll upack it for you.

When we’re inside God’s will, we’re anointed for the task. In Old Testament times, when people were anointed, the priest would pour oil on their heads, which signified God’s blessing.

Basically, they were oiled up.

So when we’re inside God’s will, we too are oiled up. Anointed.

Now, think of a car and what it means for the car to be oiled up. That means it runs smoothly, the pistons gliding inside the cylinders with ease, moving the vehicle down the road.

When the car has no oil – that is, when it’s not oiled up, not anointed – it’s basically metal against metal. Friction. Overheating. Sometimes complete engine failure.

In terms of knowing whether we’re doing what we’re made to do, here’s the clue: When we’re anointed for the task, even the struggles are easy to handle. When we’re not, even the easy things are a struggle.

So the next time the questions swoop in, screeching and shrieking and dropping doubts all around your work, don’t let them bury you under their weight.

Just check the oil.


I Do Declare: Alligators are perfect

gator1I love alligators.

To be clear: I don’t want to own one, and I keep a respectable distance from them.

My affinity for the creature is more of a metaphor. I think of alligators as a perfect example of being what God created you to be and being happy in it.

The thing is, I’ve always had a problem with this concept of being comfortable with what I am and being happy with what God created me to be.

I’ve spent time seeking after things I’m really not meant to do — certain jobs, careers moves, assignments — sometimes because of a grass-is-greener-over-there mindset and sometimes because I’ve made assumptions about what I “should” be doing and sometimes because I listen to advice that’s best ignored. And it ends up creating a lot of unnecessary friction in my life. This has been a struggle for some time.

gse_multipart28970One day, as I walked around a park, I watched an alligator swimming through a lagoon. And I was struck by the thought that God had created that creature to be exactly what it was: It cannot be domesticated, it can be found among groups but prefers working alone, it understands and fills its needs (sleeps when it’s tired, eats when it’s hungry, etc.) and when it’s not working, it lies around sunning itself on a bank.

And I thought, “Hey, wait – that’s me as a writer.” True story.

I was gripped by the insight that this is God’s perfect design for this creature, and it’s an illustration of His perfect design for me — to be what he created me to be and to be happy in it. Sure, I can strive for excellence in what I do, but when it comes to who I am, I should not strive for any more or less than to be the creative, passionate, inspired, excited, deeply joyful individual that I already am and to rejoice that I was put on this Earth to be one of His beloved daughters.

It was an exciting moment when I realized this. And since then, the alligator has been the inspiration of that designation of God’s perfect design. I’ve collected a lot of alligator memorabilia, because that insight — moving though it was — sometimes gets lost in the day-to-day minutia and I need the reminders.

I have several alligator necklaces, a pair of alligator earrings and several alligator nick-nacks, stuffed toys and what-nots around my office to remind me. I have a three-foot plastic alligator that sits outside my office. I named him Cicero, and he looks real enough to have frightened people. I like that. Who wouldn’t want a guard-gator?

The alligator is an amazing creature. It has an undeserved reputation as a monster-beast, but maintains the good grace to be exactly what God created it to be and to be happy in his own skin.

We could learn a lot from the example.