Posted by: Norm | August 12, 2010

What’s Good About Lists?

I have a list.

When I was a kid, I kept a list of assignments on my desk in my bedroom.  I think it served as more of a “let’s suck joy from Norm’s day” list than anything.  There were times I would pile stuff on it just so I wouldn’t have to acknowledge anything was due sooner or later.  This kept my grade average at an acceptable level, but distinctly below the National Honor Society standards.  Looking back, I did myself a horrible disservice of not being the best student I could have been.  It was only later in life I discovered I’m a mostly bright guy and I loved learning, ending up with a Master’s degree.  Good lists make for personal achievement.

When I was a pastor, I made a list most late afternoons or evenings for what needed to be done the next day, week or month.  I’d mentally fine tune the list, usually, on the way to work in the morning.  Somewhere along the line I learned about time management; the ability to organize in such a way, you can work like a well-oiled machine and not waste time or energy on non-productive things.  Maybe I’m not a pastor today because the churches I served mostly wanted the unproductive things, the relational things, the things you couldn’t put on a “check-off” list and be able to say at the end of the day, “I accomplished a lot today.”  Good lists can bury you if there’s no heart in them.

When I was a consultant to churches and travelled a  lot, I kept a Franklin-Covey planner.  If you’ve ever been tied to one of these rascals you know they are your salvation and your taskmaster, especially in a demanding occupation.  Looking back, it kept me focused, on time, on schedule and contributed to a successful career.  There is nothing I would have changed in those years, except to have been able to take my family with me to every city, to which I travelled.  And there’s the bugger.  My family became a part of my Franklin-Covey planning.  Although I didn’t go through what Tiger Woods has done to himself, we all suffered some of the same emotional feelings simply because daddy had to be in Denver or Seattle or Albuquerque or Ft. Worth or San Francisco or Phoenix or Las Vegas or Portland or Anchorage or Hawaii this week.  Lists are not a substitute for living and loving those given to your care.

When I became a funeral director, I noticed none of my fellow employees had a list . . . per se.  The files, or the families you are working with, create your lists for you and each one is slightly different.  I must say, though, if you don’t “complete” the file, you’re gonna forget something and that’s never a good thing, never.  My boss/owner likes to remark, in 87 years of business, no one has had to stand in front of chapel full of people and explain, “I’m sorry, we can’t have this funeral today because one of our employees forgot to order the casket (or whatever the problem might be).  Good lists, however made, make for good business.

Now I’m semi-retired.  My wife makes lists for me, my kids make lists for me, my grandchildren make lists for me, my semi-employer makes lists for me and I make lists for me.  I guess closer to the truth would be . . . I have a list and all it takes is a phone call from any of the above people to add something to my list.  Some days it’s gosh-darned full.  Sometimes it’s brutally empty and I wonder if anyone needs (loves) me anymore.  Lists can never replace love . . . the love of your family, your work or your passion for living.

I have a list . . .

  1. Love someone today.
  2. The rest of the list begins here.  




  1. Dad,

    I don’t know if our relationship would be any different if you weren’t traveling all the time. But, what I do know is I love our relationship now!!! I know it was hard to be away and us kids put you guys thru the wringer sometimes. I love you both for all you did!!

    Thank you,

  2. Now I know where James get’s it from 🙂

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