Checklists to Organize Your Life, Time, and Sanity
by Karen Kuebler
During the last year I have made one of the simplest
discoveries to help keep my sanity, and in the spirit of sharing for the
holidays – this will be my gift to you! In fact, you’ll be able to use
this idea to make your life easier and your mind clearer during the holiday
I’ve started making checklists for those things
I do on a repetitive basis and I can’t believe how much frustration this
relieves from certain processes. Some processes I may only repeat once a
year, such as planning and preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
Other things occur much more frequently, like traveling and having houseguests.
I first made the simple discovery of creating a checklist when I found myself
going crazy packing for trips. We were going out of town at least once a
month or more, and I started to realize how much I dreaded the packing process.
I would procrastinate getting ready for a trip because it was so distasteful and
Once I stopped long enough to examine why I was procrastinating and realized
that it was because everything about getting ready for the trip felt so out of
control. How could I bring some control to the process? Make a
checklist! I created the trip preparation and packing checklist and
‘tweaked’ it over time. It was amazing to feel the panic and
frustration of preparing for a trip literally drain from my body.
I included items on the list that I would need to do in advance such as stopping
the newspaper, holding the mail, giving necessary information to our neighbor,
and other arrangements that needed to be handled. Next I developed the packing
portion of the list. The final part of the list includes anything we need
to check as we are leaving such as adjusting the thermostat, turning off the
water heater, checking all windows and doors, checking the tires and oil, etc.
It might sound like a daunting task to create the checklist, but it actually
goes quickly once you get started. The amazing result was how I felt
afterward. I no longer had anxiety about preparing for the trip.
Sometimes I could pack the morning we were leaving because I had everything
already “thought out” on paper!
Not only did I stop stressing about preparing, but it also made it easier to
share the list with my husband. Everything we needed to do was in black
and white and we could share the responsibilities. Sometimes the
matter of delegating feels impossible to do because we can’t organize our
thoughts or plans clearly enough to entrust someone else to do the tasks.
Once I discovered the ease of carrying out a repetitive process with an
organized checklist, I started making checklists for other processes. A
great place to start in the creating process is to identify those things that
you find frustrating, disorganized, overwhelming or stressful.
I realized that I would often become stressed when we were expecting
houseguests. I enjoyed the company, but I would feel overwhelmed even when
thinking about guests coming to visit. I worried about meals, activities,
logistics of having everything in order for their arrival, and other things.
I created a list of what I wanted to accomplish before they arrived -- meals I
could prepare in advance, food to have on hand so they could get their own
breakfasts and lunches, preparation of beds, towels, bathroom necessities, etc.
I put together a basket with shampoo, soap, lotions, q-tips, toothpaste, shower
caps, and other items. I assembled a bucket in the fridge with all of the
makings for sandwiches. When guests arrive I show them where everything is
located that they will need in the kitchen, pantry, fridge, bedrooms and
We discuss any needs they might have and let them be involved in the planning of
activities, meal preparation, coordinating times for conflicting events, etc.
Again, it is all in black and white on a checklist so I won’t worry about
forgetting something important. This has really made the difference of
looking forward to having company as opposed to worrying and stressing over it.
I’ve created many checklists to help organize my life and activities.
Since I do a lot of training I have a list of what I need to do in preparing a
program and all of the logistics involved to ensure a successful program.
I can share this list with others when I’m enlisting their assistance in the
I have a monthly list of special days including birthdays and anniversaries. At
the beginning of each month, or even a couple of months in advance, I check to
see what gifts I need to buy, what cards and presents need to be mailed, and
what phone calls need to be made. I schedule all of these into my daily
planner on days that I will have time to fit them in. I schedule phone
calls for special dates at the beginning of each month in my planner. Then I can
relax and forget about it until I come to that task on the particular day it is
Our home is located on the border of a National Forest. We face the
possibility of forest fires as a natural disaster. Everybody faces some
form of a natural disaster where they live. I created an Emergency
Evacuation Checklist that I keep posted on the door of our coat closet. We
did a practice run to see how quickly we could follow the list. I
know that if we are faced with this situation, I will not be in any frame of
mind to think straight. Hopefully I will never need to use this list, but
if I do, we will be able to evacuate within 15 minutes.
I developed an annual home maintenance checklist divided into months. I
look at the schedule a couple of months in advance to see what maintenance
people I need to schedule and what specific tasks we need to do. I can
schedule these items into my planner, alleviating the stress or worry of
forgetting important pieces.
I have a list of everybody I need to buy gifts for during the year and at
holidays, along with special ideas and notes for each person. I have a
list that organizes the holidays – beginning with preparing for Thanksgiving
and taking me step by step through the Christmas holidays. For me, New
Year’s is a quiet and relaxing holiday. That is just the way I like to
start the coming year. But many people have a lot of events and activities
planned around the New Year’s holiday. If you enjoy doing this, it’s a
perfect opportunity to create a checklist!
Although the idea of creating the checklists might seem overwhelming at first,
like any project you start – take it one step at a time, one list at a time.
When you feel overloaded by an upcoming event, take thirty minutes to create a
checklist to help you plan for it. One list doesn’t take very long to
develop. You can modify the lists over time as you use them. You
won’t think of every detail the first time you create a list.
Start now by creating a list of what you need to do to prepare for the holidays.
Computers have many advantages – and if you are reading this article, you must
have a computer! You can brainstorm a list and then move things around to
get them in the proper order afterward. Make a special binder to house
You will find this simple method of organizing can bring a new level of order
and sanity to your life that will help you to create the balance you are
craving. When life is more balanced, everything just works better.
You can stop worrying and start enjoying life more. What better gift can I
give you for the holidays? I wish you all the best for the coming Holiday
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© 2002 by Karen Kuebler