I’ll be the first to admit, I often find myself feeling a bit like Santa Claus. It’s not because I have a strange penchant for the color red (I do), a flowing white beard (at least not as of yet) or a fascination with making toys (take my word for it, you do not want to see me handling shop tools). No, this feeling comes from a particular habit of mine that I’ve found myself utilizing more and more often in my professional life.

I am a list-maker.

Not exactly earth-shattering as far as confessions go, I know, but that shouldn’t diminish its significance. Really, isn’t it often the simplest solutions that end up creating the biggest positive impact in our lives? Taking a quick two minutes out of the day to jot down an action-item list is just about as simple as it gets. And maybe that’s just why it’s so effective.

I make lists for everything – and I mean everything. To-do lists for daily tasks at the office; notebooks filled with checklists for ongoing, active projects; whiteboards filled with lists of open client programs and writing projects in progress; calendars and digital planners filled to the brim with important alerts. From time to time, I even find myself making lists of lists that I need to make (I wish I could say that I was joking about that last one). Most of this last paragraph itself was a list of list, when you stop to look at it. The point is, while many a notepad has felt the wrath of my scribbling pen, it is nonetheless a habit that I have found to be indispensable when it comes to keeping myself on track.

Is it overkill? Yes, admittedly. It most likely is. But it also keeps me focused, organized, on-task, and prevents me from constantly tearing my hair out in frustration as I sift through and struggle to prioritize a mental catalog of important events. Rivers of ink have been spilled over entire forests worth of paper in the process, and every day I find myself remaining just a littler saner because of it. It may sound like useless, scribbling busywork added to your day, but I can tell you from a lifetime of personal experience – it works.

There’s good reason why the mythical Santa Claus writes out and double-checks his massive list year after year after year. Such an exhaustive undertaking would be enough to overwhelm anyone. It’s no secret that even the most well-organized of folks can find it all too easy to become overwhelmed with their myriad responsibilities, so much so that even figures of legend often need a little help from time to time. True, our own responsibilities are likely not anywhere near as extensive, but they are no less important because of it. Take those old words of wisdom to heart – make your list, and check it twice.