There are two types of To Do Lists. The workday To Do List and the day off To Do List. The workday To Do List shouldn’t be loaded up. If you made a reasonable amount of progress on your most recent day off To Do List, your workday To Do List should be manageable. It may only have a couple unfinished items leftover from the day off one. Make a new list. You don’t want to be staring at a To Do on Tuesday List on Wednesday. It’s discouraging and humiliating.
I should back up and wax philosophically on the nature of To Do Lists. Aristotle invented To Do Lists in ancient Greece. Tragically, the world’s entire store of To Do Lists burned in the library of Alexandria. Along with a lot of plays by Aeschylus burned a lot of To Do Lists. Word spread through the ages, though, and Shakespeare was extremely well known as a user of To Do Lists. You didn’t know that, did you?
All right, I won’t back up that far. Also none of that is true. I wanted to blog about To Do Lists near the New Year because I think of New Year’s Day as To Do List Day! There are those who refuse to make New Year’s resolutions. Their reason? They never last! Wow, I can’t even wrap my brain around how illogical that is. Those people are really missing the point of self-improvement. I have to have a really bad day before I will let an uncompleted To Do List get the best of me. After all, I made it. One thing I like to remember that I tend to forget, which is kind of nice because I do enjoy remembering it, is that the pressure I put on myself as a writer is self-induced. It was like that long before I got anything published and it’s still like that now. When I have a day where I wanted to write this and edit that and send one thing and research where to send another, if I finish the day and got half that done, that’s twice as much as nothing! No one else cares what I’m getting done. They don’t even know what I’m doing. They haven’t seen the list! That’s where I think the people referenced above go wrong. They make a resolution for the year, and then say, “Man, I only made it for a week, I suck!” No, you made it for a week, you’re awesome!
I make my day off To Do Lists the night before. These things are extravagant, they fill a page. First thing I do in the morning is pare it down. If I put that I wanted to mail out five stories, I change it to two. If I wanted to query two agents, I change it to one. I get realistic. There’s only so much time in the day and a lot to do! (I know because it’s all on my huge list!) Now, I put everything on my To Do List, even fun things. After all, I’m doing them, aren’t I? If you want, you can even put “pare down To Do List” as the first thing on your To Do List, do it, and cross it off! (I don’t do that. I take myself a little more seriously than that, but you can.)
My friend, during a recent To Do List discussion, said he didn’t understand why his wife needed to make a To Do List to clean their house. “It had three things on it. We weren’t going to forget three things.” Remembering to do the things on your To Do List is only one tiny part of the point of To Do Lists. It’s at least as much about organizing your day or your next month or, in the case of New Year’s resolutions, your next year. It’s about focusing on your goals. Even the items I cross off in the morning have served a purpose. It keeps me in touch with those goals and good chance they’ll show up on future To Do Lists and actually get done.
Last thing because this is getting kind of long and I have a lot to do, today. Never throw a To Do List away. To Do Lists are like little time capsules. If you’re as disorganized as me, you’ll find them in random places, months or years later, and shudder with amazement that these things, at one time, needed done and that you did them. Last December, just before Bottoms in Love released, I randomly came across a crumpled To Do List with submit Bottoms in Love to OC Press written on it. And it was crossed off.