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Monday, October 15, 2012

Checking off, checking in, checking up

     I have come to realize of late how important my habit of making lists really is to my well being!  I have always been a strong proponent for making lists - grocery lists, to do lists, deadlines list, birthday lists, book reading lists, etc.  It has really served me well over the years both professionally and personally.  
     In terms of RA, I always take a list of questions for my appointments with whatever medical person I am seeing.  Of late, that group has grown to include the surgeon who did my foot reconstruction and the physical therapist who helped me to re-learn how to walk with an altered gait in addition to my ever present rheumatologist and PCP.  
     Little did I know that the habit I had formed as a youngster of making a list of all my homework assignments and household chores to do would pay off so profoundly as an adult with a chronic disease that required ongoing management!  This "best practice" has truly proven to be not only a time saver, which in itself makes it worth the effort, but it pays off in other ways as well.
     First of all, it lowers the stress often associated with going to an appointment by eliminating one of the items we often take up when we are with our medical support team....i.e. questions about why are there, new information we want to share, medication changes, symptom concerns, etc.  Having it all written out and ready to go means you can focus on other things about the appointment like getting there on time, staying calm and so on.  And if you are wondering if doctors and other medical folks like you to bring a list...the answer is yes they do!  I have asked virtually every one of them if it is OK with them and they ALL have said it is not only fine but they appreciate the advance planning on my part.  They also know that having those questions means a more efficient appointment and a much lower likelihood of "unfinished business" later which often results in the patient calling back to the doctors office or scheduling another appointment because we forgot to ask a very important question! 
     Believe me, I do not have a spotless record when it comes to bringing lists....many is the time that for one reason or another I simply did not bring it.  That said, it happens less and less frequently these days.  I like to think it is because I am so wise I now know that it is crucial to my well being but most likely the reason is more trivial than that...probably because those of us with chronic conditions spend so much of our time dealing with medical personnel it has become a good habit!  
     As we all know going for all of the various appointments has its own set of stressors and if you can reduce one on your own it makes such good sense!  Knowing I have my trusty list with me that I have been adding to for weeks, means I can let go of the worry of remembering to ask everything.  It really is one of those instances of a small action making a huge difference.  
     Another reason I so endorse list making is that it makes me a more efficient person in all areas of my life because it means I don' t have the burden of trying to remember things!  The older I get the more I appreciate that.  I have said many times in my life - if I had to choose whether to loose my wallet or my calendar (where all my lists "live") I would choose to loose my wallet.  I can replace all the items in my wallet but to try to remember all the items on my calendar would be a nightmare from which I would never awaken!  Lists mean that my mind is free to carry on with my day to day life.  I know you have had one of those times (sometimes in the middle of a good sleep) when you think of something you need to add to your list or just remember to do and you decide not to disturb your rest and the next morning it is gone from your mind and you wish so much you had gotten up and written it down.
        That all by itself would make this a good habit to start!  I also find that I derive a lot of satisfaction from "checking off" items on my to do list!  It really adds a sense of accomplishment and gives me a nice boost to see that list shrinking.   I list out chores, work tasks, deadlines, etc. and as I complete one I check it off with a flourish!
     One list that is of particular value to me since the RA, is my travel list.  Since I now have to make sure I bring all the necessary items for managing my RA while away, it is more important than ever to make that list and check it twice!   Medications, braces, ointments, etc. all need to be part of the packing and although you would think that over time you would not need to be reminded, the truth is that we do.  I know you have arrived at a destination and realized you forgot your _____(fill in the blank).  
     Just a couple of weeks ago, I arrived at my hotel only to discover that I had forgotten my pajamas!  Thankfully I was in a place where I could walk to the downtown and pick up a pair of warm ups and a t-shirt (I think I may have secretly forgotten in order to do some shopping)...just kidding :)
The point is, it was a quick two day trip and I DID NOT go over my travel list foolishly thinking I was all set.  Now in this case, it was not a big deal but...if this had been a case of forgotten medications it would have made for a much less comfortable trip!
     My latest list was the Surgery Tips list I made following my foot surgery in June.  I now have a nearly two page list of tips that I will carefully review before my other foot is done in January, 2013.  It is full of all kinds of reminders and suggestions that will make this next surgery go more smoothly and leave no questions unanswered this time around.

     I don't think there is such a thing as too many lists!  By utilizing lists in your daily life you will find that it makes your day go more smoothly, with a lot less stress, greater efficiency, leaving no questions unanswered, a less cluttered mind and a happier attitude towards life!
     Let the listing begin!


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