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A to-do list and a calendar planner are useful tools to help focus on everyday tasks as well as bigger hopes and dreams.

It’s wonderful to see a plan come together. I want more of that, don’t you? To get there, we need to get specific about goals.

For several recent months, I served on a committee to create a women’s retreat at our church. Do you know how far away January sounds when it’s August? And then it’s October and slots need filled, then it’s December, and yikes, it’s crunch time.

The day arrived on Jan. – a chancy date for a big event due to the months’ wildly unpredictable weather, yet a great date in another way because it signaled the fresh start of a new year.

Turned out the weather was no problem, and we had 50 on the roster. Committee members went above and beyond from filling the church with snowmen decorations borrowed from our varied personal collections, to delicious food catered by two committee members.

Speakers, musicians, and a crafts master (who tripled as a speaker and musician, besides) all performed their roles well. The door-prize committee surely set a record for what they procured. Positive comments came our way. Best part? The happy chatter in the background as women visited.

Great as it was, it’s nice to see the retreat folder leave my desktop. As I write this a week after the retreat, even though I have many other folders needing attention, I feel a sense of freedom. Seeing something through to completion is satisfying.

First order of business: Getting organized at home! Pay some bills, tackle the paperwork piled in a basket; collect the stray holiday decorations and straighten the closet where I keep them.

Make some appointments: At the vet for Reggie’s shots, and one for March with our tax preparer. Write an itinerary for my monthly writers’ group meeting; go to the bank. Cross additional T’s and dot more I’s.

I know what helps keep me organized. I created an old-fashioned, paper-and-pen to-do list, and as I write this, I’m plowing through that list, taking the satisfying time to one-by-one cross off things as I address them.

Why I don’t demand these lists from myself daily, I don’t know, because with a good list, I’m much more productive than without one. I’m a considerably happier camper when I can see what I need to accomplish, as well as witness those straight lines through each completed chore.

With about a dozen items to cross off, I will not complain, but rather transfer the unfinished business to the next day’s list, along with new tasks to pursue. I must force myself to keep doing this. I need a daily game plan.

Last Sunday, Pastor Keith Wooden spoke about what’s next, about making connections, and having hopes and dreams again, nearly two years after the pandemic changed everything. He mentioned that so many of us are in survival mode now, and aren’t looking toward the future so much.

I thought of the women at the retreat, and the information cards we distributed. Many women completed the cards, expressing interest in their own what’s next, and making new connections within the church.

Even with the uncertainty of this pandemic, we can look forward and dream dreams.

For me, a daily to-do list helps me do just that. Sometimes, dreams unfold one small to-do list item at a time, even on a daily basis. What’s next for me is release of a new book, a memoir, There’s a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go.

The story behind the book is coming inside the winter issue of her magazine for women on Saturday, Jan. 29. The book is expected to be available by about then or shortly thereafter, on Amazon, and physically, from me.

One dream of mine for 2022 is to connect with readers of this column in person at whatever community opportunities come along. After a year in the solitary act of writing and revising, I miss you.

Meanwhile, what’s on your to-do list? Do yourself a favor and see if making such a list helps you not only get organized in the small stuff, but dream a dream of bigger ideas and goals. Let me know how it goes.

Donna Cronk is retired Neighbors Editor of The Courier-Times. Her Next Chapter column appears the second and fourth Saturdays each month. Connect with her at newsgirl.1958@gmail.com.

Donna Cronk is retired Neighbors Editor of The Courier-Times. Her Next Chapter column appears the second and fourth Saturdays each month. Connect with her at newsgirl.1958@gmail.com.