Am I an organized person by nature or a disorganized person who is forced into being organized so that I can get things done and find my car keys on a regular basis? It’s the classic chicken-egg question, and one that I’ve yet to satisfactorily answer for myself.

For other people, I usually go with the second because it sounds better and I suppose also gives me a slight ego boost for overcoming natural bad habits. However, it’s probably a little closer to the first than I’d like to admit. My room growing up was rarely the complete disaster I’ve seen from most kids and even when I was in college, things were pretty well kept. After cleaning our kitchen for the first time, my wife thought she’d wound up with the guy from Sleeping With The Enemy. In my own defense, all of the labels weren’t out.

Which is all to say in a roundabout way that I have a daily to do list. I write it out by hand with little checkboxes and then take great joy in adding a check to those boxes throughout the day. If I neglect to have my list, then the day tends to wander (see also: yesterday’s post and guess which days I’m best about making that list).

For a season, I tried a method that it seems other “wildly productive” people use, which is to schedule your day out completely by time – down to the quarter hour. Sounded like a fantastic idea until I’d done it about a month and realized that much as doing just one thing might work for some people, that this wasn’t for me. I can see how that would work, but for me it caused paralysis and aggravation because it always seemed I was going off schedule. So I went running back to my list.

And you know what? It works. Maybe not in a “wildly productive” way, but it works. Things get done and between my list and my calendar, I have a pretty good look at my day and can plan accordingly. And if things don’t get checked off the list? I either add them to my list for the next day or reevaluate whether it’s something I should be doing.

See, I think the best lesson I’ve learned from the list that I couldn’t quite get with the schedule was to be a little more kind with myself. Maybe it’s a crossed wire in my head, but the schedule never allowed me that breathing room whereas missing one item on a list elicits a shrug from me. After spending a fair amount of time beating myself up over the years, I figured I owe me one.

Probably more, really.