Religion News Service: In-depth. Impartial. Engaged.

Blogs » Jana Riess - Flunking Sainthood

Flunking Sainthood has moved: Click here to read the latest posts

In Praise of the List

I know I am too busy. I do. And the moment things slow down, I promise to take a hard look at my life and cut some things out.

In the meantime, I will make lists.

I'm not going to bore you with all the details of the things I need to do this week -- finishing one job and preparing for another, revising an essay, judging a writing contest, doing several radio interviews, starting the homeschool year with new curriculum, finally getting to the post office to mail my mother's birthday present. . . .

Oh wait, I wound up listing all the details anyway. Sorry about that. Lists are something of a habit with me, and it's hard to shut it down.

A few years ago I discovered my diary from when I was eleven years old. Amidst the embarrassment of reading about all my various crushes (was I really that boy-crazy?), I was amused to discover a number of to-do lists. Apparently even in the sixth grade I realized the value of breaking tasks down into little steps. That skill remains a life-saver today.

I've tried a couple of different iPhone programs for my to-do lists, but wound up reverting back to the old standby of scrawled memos on post-it notes. It bugged me that in the computer programs, once I had accomplished a task it would simply disappear. I get a ridiculous amount of satisfaction from crossing something off with a flourish, so to see those completed tasks vanish into the ether felt strangely anticlimactic. (I have also been known to start my list by writing down and crossing off a couple of tasks I've already accomplished, which is idiotic but oddly satisfying.)

So as we near the end of our month of gratitude, I submit to you the simple list. It remains the single-best time management skill in my arsenal, beating out even the kitchen timer in its organizational prowess. I'd be lost without it.


The image of a disarmingly empty to-do list is used with permission of



Topics: Culture, Arts & Media, Social Issues
Beliefs: Interfaith
Tags: flunking sainthood, jana riess, listmaking, organizational skills, time management, to-do lists


  1. I’d be willing to bet you’re a high “j” in Myers-Briggs.  The putting things on your list that you’ve already done and checking them off is a sure indicator.

    I love my lists, and my list apps.  I’m a huge fan of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” methodology, and highly recommend it to other fans of list-making.

    7.  Comment on Jana’s blog.  DONE.

  2. Guilty. I am on off-the-charts J.

Sign In

Forgot Password?

You also can sign in with Facebook or Twitter if you've connected your account to them.

Sign In Using Facebook

Sign In Using Twitter