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Remembering Dad: He Always had a List

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I cannot say for certain that the stock value of the company that owned those spiral topped, pocket sized notebooks fell when Dad died in December of 1992, but it is a cinch that the number of sales of that particular item dropped.

Dad was easily the most productive person I have ever known. He never kept it a secret how he got so much done every day: he kept running lists of small projects he wanted to accomplish on a spiral topped, pocket size notebook. He never took a day off from keeping a list.

He believed so deeply in the value of maintaining to-do lists that these notebooks were a stock item at his office. Employees were encouraged to use these lists in their personal lives, but they were required to maintain them on the job. It was not uncommon for him to call a meeting of his employees for the purpose of having employees disclose how many items they had accomplished on the list, and how many small projects were pending.

The first thing he would do after waking and getting nature’s calling out of the way, would be to identify a small project to put on his list as number one. While doing that, he would identify two more small projects as numbers two and three. For the rest of the day, he would continue the pattern of identifying one or two more projects to put on his list as he was completing one already on the list. He would often have two or three, and, sometimes, four, pages of projects completed by the end of the day.

He would not put a major project, like painting the garage, on the list. He would break that major project down into manageable small projects. Something like painting a window frame would, perhaps, include three items: scrape the window frame, tape off the window, and paint the window frame. He believed that was the key to not becoming overwhelmed by a major project.

Dad always wore shirts with pockets. For most of his adult life, there were always three things in that pocket, but only two after he quit smoking cigarettes. Those two things were a pen, and his spiral topped, pocket size notebook that was being filled with manageable projects he wanted to complete that day.

Those lists were the reason, and not the secret, for his incredible productivity, for he would tell you so himself.

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