Dad's To-Do Lists

Currently I am in one of those phases where I am bringing together all of my task lists, attempting to merge them into one usable document.  I have notes in my phone, on my wife's tablet, but mostly there are various sizes of paper scattered throughout my surroundings. Many are random observations of things that need to be "fixed" scribbled on a notepad from a tech's pocket.  Others are partially completed lists from earlier in the year on a folded and wrinkled piece of notebook paper and there are printed emails because they are too important to just sit in my inbox with the other 200 or so messages.  We even have a several page document spelling out the family plans of summer and exactly how much "freedom" can be expected this year.  And yes, there are even some chicken stained napkins scattered around.

On this day, working on this particular project I am reminded of having dreaded the duty several years ago of sorting through my father's possessions.  My dad may have qualified as a hoarder except for the fact that he was meticulously organized and took very good care of his stuff.  And he had a lot of stuff.

As expected, we came across many of his known organizing systems that he effectively used to keep up with the things that mattered to him:

  • A small, slightly curved 5 ring binder with information about his antique race car that he constantly worked on.  He needed it small so that it fit in his pocket when he went to car shows.  It was organized into parts he needed, parts he had and experiences he had with the car.
  • An index card file box with information about his collection of cameras.  The cards were colored coded by camera.  There was information about service records, accessories available and articles from photography magazines.
  • Dozens of matching, full size binders all clearly labeled by date and sorted in order.  These binders held thousands of photograph 35mm negatives from when cameras actually used film.  Each in a protective sheet, labeled by date and event.
  • Pilot's Log Book with details of every mission he flew from training, to active battles, to instruction and finally to weekend reserves.

We always kind of made fun of Dad for his scrupulous approach to organization, so these systems were well known to the family and no surprise to find.  But what was surprising was all the abandoned and failed organization systems.  My dad also had half completed lists on notebook paper, notecards bound by rubber bands and flowcharts never fully implemented.

When I first saw these things, I felt a tinge of sadness because these failed systems seemed to represent the things that Dad never accomplished.  But as time has passed, I realize that they were stepping stones, learning curves and rough drafts.

Isn't that how you make yourself better, just keep building on your experiences?  And doesn't that mean learning from successes and failures?

But dads - do your kids a favor and once you have given up on a system, throw it away.

Wishing you a very Happy Father's Day,

Mike