Renee Winick mug

Renee Winick

If you were to ask for a description of Renee Winick, you’d likely receive the standard bits of information: wife, mother of 15-year-old twins, former corporate trainer, current manager of the Winick household, family shutterbug and lover of words.

Those who know me best, however, will know the one thing that truly makes me tick — lists.

I love lists! I’m a planner by nature and an over-thinker to my core; so, the one thing that allows me to sleep and keeps my head from spinning is writing lists. My lists range from the standard grocery list to the daily to-do list to the lofty yearly goals list. I am so list-obsessed that, in preparation for major trips or life events, I have been known to make a list of the lists I need to make. That’s a bit much, I know; but it’s technically not obsessive — I checked.

After years of making lists, it has become clear to me that the skills I’ve acquired can be transferred to some helpful life lessons. Here are a few things that list-making has taught me about life (you can’t be surprised that I’ve made a list):

Have goals, but be flexible.

My Monday to-do list always seems to be longer than the rest of the week’s. It’s not that I honestly believe that I can get it all done in one day; I just like to write it all down before I forget. I have no qualms about moving tasks down to the following day, or week, or month (I’m looking at you, “organize the pantry”). Don’t give up on your goals if you don’t reach them in a certain amount of time. Some of life’s sweetest gifts are the ones you’ve wished for the longest.

Don’t expect others to complete the tasks on your list.

I realized long ago that I can’t expect an item on my list to be a top priority for my husband. He will happily assist if I ask for help; but he’s got his own list of things to get done. Your goals are your responsibility. Your family and friends are there to support and assist as necessary, but you’ve got to take ownership of your life, including its successes and failures. I think that’s one of the toughest lessons to learn.

Other people’s lists are none of your business.

Just as I can’t expect my husband to work on my list, I can’t take it upon myself to work on his (unless I am asked). When you care about people, it’s natural to want the best for them; but their life is theirs to live. You are there to love, support and help in any way they need when and if it is asked of you. That’s it.

Don’t compare your list to others’.

Not only is the grass always greener on the other side of the fence, the to-do list is also always shorter. It’s easy to look around and feel like you’re the only one struggling to cross off even one of the items on your life’s list. This is absolutely untrue and you’re doing yourself a huge disservice comparing your life to someone else’s. We all have different roads to travel; and if you spend all your time wishing you were walking another person’s route, you’ll miss the beauty that surrounds your path.

Choose the items on your list carefully.

Just as it is useless to spend time on tasks that don’t aid in making you and your family happy and healthy (again, I’m looking at you, “organize the pantry”), don’t waste time and energy on things or people that don’t bring you joy or make your life better in some way.

Over the years, my use of lists has become somewhat legendary in my family and more than once has been the reason for some well-deserved teasing. I’m absolutely fine with that because I know the value of a well-made list. It needs to have a clear purpose, with reachable goals and flexible time lines, and, upon completion, make the lives of those I love at least a little bit better. I guess the same can be said for a well-lived life.

Renee Winick has lived in Prior Lake for nearly two decades, where she resides with her husband and twin son and daughter. She is also a contributor to the TODAY Parenting Team website.