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A Penchant for Lists

I am a lady who lists. (No, not leaning to the side like a ship beginning to sink – although that has been known to happen once in a while after some wine!) I make lists of things to do, to track, and then to cross off. I also keep calendars (for myself and my husband). And I am a hearty note taker.

My organizational habit

This habit of organization keeps me on track in life and with my rheumatoid arthritis. I learned it from a young age (thanks Mom and Dad!) that if I was going to accomplish all I wanted and keep on track with my comings and goings, that I needed some strong list making skills.

In school it started with assignments—having detailed lists of what I owed to what teacher and when. As I progressed to college, I even made sublists for the steps I needed to take throughout a semester to write that big term paper. Examples: many library research trips, making note cards, tracking references and so forth. Fun stuff!

Lists became important for my health as well. What medications I was taking and when. What had my previous treatments been. Then came the calendar for so many appointments: doctors, blood draws, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and so forth. Of course, in those early days everything was on paper.

The digital age was a revolution!

I became an early Palm Pilot adopter. I loved the calendar and list function. And I could carry it everywhere!

Now I rely on my smartphone and love that it automatically updates to my computer. My calendar keeps me straight on my appointments, but I also love that I can share updates with my husband and loop him in as needed.

My to-do app is now so handy that I can categorize for different aspects of my life: work, home, and other organizations for which I volunteer. Additionally, I can prioritize tasks and set dates—even making some tasks recurring (like weekly watering the orchid!). My habit is to enter a task into my app as soon as it pops into my head so that I don’t forget.

My smartphone also carries many random notes, like holiday gift shopping list and travel packing lists. It’s great because I can start them on my commute and continue filling out over time. They are always with me and I can also send them to other people for feedback when needed.

So, how does this tie in to RA?

You may wonder what does this obsession with organization have to do with living with rheumatoid arthritis? For me, it is a hugely important coping mechanism. My mind is constantly filled with worries about my health or things I need to do to maintain it. If I wasn’t able to rely on my lists and calendar, I would forget all the things I want to do besides worry! Just kidding, kind of.

Really, having lists and tracking things takes a lot of stress off my mind and also has proven so reliably helpful that I don’t worry so much about remembering a million little things. Like when to water the plants. Or keeping track of questions for the doctor at my next appointment. These things can be downloaded from my brain and offloaded onto a little device that helps me keep track. While I struggle periodically with RA brain fog, I find my organizational tricks really help to keep me going.

It’s even been helpful when I’m starting a new medication regimen to set regular calendar alerts so that I take whatever drug on the wright day and time. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t take my medication because of these handy habits.

Organization doesn’t come easy for everyone, but in a day and age when so many people have a pocket-sized computer with them at all times its become super easy to use these tools to take a load off our minds and help us keep on track.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • AndyS
    1 year ago

    I had slumped into an unhealthy and lethargic routine, I no longer work, so I don’t have to do anything.” What? But I want to do stuff!” The sloth in me says ” Yeah but it’s OK it will wait”. It’s a downward spiral if the sloth wins out. “You can do stuff, but not always the stuff you used to do and probably not as quickly”; because you are hampered by an illness (think of it as a weight penalty in rally driving), your final success in achieving a goal, deserves greater accolade than if you had done so without the penalty.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    11 months ago

    Thanks AndyS! That’s a good reminder. 🙂 Keep fighting that sloth-voice and hang in there! Best, Kelly ( Team)

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    1 year ago

    !! I have so many lists and post its and just wow…

    When I was in school writing and re-writing notes helped me remember information for tests and papers.

    Now, writing and re-writing helps me not forget the basics…Pesky brain fog!

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    1 year ago

    Yes! Lists help so much with brain fog! Doesn’t make the fog go away, but at least it is a technique for managing it. 🙂 Best, Kelly

  • Daniel Malito moderator
    1 year ago

    @kellymack I get it. I always try to make a plan if I start spinning out. It helps to know how I’m moving forward when I’m not sure how to move forward. Keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    1 year ago

    I like that Daniel! It’s like a way of pathfinding. Sometimes I know what I want the end result or goal to be, but not how to get there. Maybe I figure out one step but not all of them. So try to take it one step at a time and hope it leads me in the right place! 🙂 Best, Kelly

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    1 year ago

    Lists? I dont need no stinkin lists. But just to make sure I need to get my …… ah… well list.

    Never mind

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    1 year ago

    LOL! In one of my favorite childhood storybooks a character makes a list of everything he needs to do that day (including getting up, eating breakfast etc). But then a wind carries away his list and he doesn’t know what to do! Luckily his friend says, that’s OK, we’ll figure it out. 🙂 Thanks for the laugh, Rick. Best, Kelly

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