I’ve always been a to do list person. It’s visual, and there is such a strong sense of satisfaction each time something gets crossed off the list. While the kids these days are using iPhone apps to keep track, I just can’t get behind it. If I can’t draw a line (with a pen) through a to do item when it’s done, it’s like it never happened. Very tree in the forest.
In the employed days, these lists were epic. After all the additions that would happen throughout the day, it was rare that there were less remaining items at the end of the day than total items I started with at the beginning of the day. Some would consider this depressing. As a treadmill enthusiast, I guess I don’t mind lack of net progress as long as I’m killing myself for gross progress.*
You would think that the to do list would be shorter in my unemployed days. You would be wrong. Anything can be a to do list task if you broaden the definition of progress.
Every day, number one on the list is WRITE. It’s in capital letters, so it must be serious. Sometimes it’s followed with a specific writing assignment, but generally it’s just the task that can never really be crossed off. This is the only truly important career-ish thing on my list on most days.
From there, it goes drastically downhill. I easily fill an entire page with “to do” items that never would have made a previous list when I was fully employed. You know, the types that take longer to write and cross off than actually accomplish, or the blatantly low hanging fruit (think: write to do list).
Examples from today: “Fill out post-class survey for free Circuit Works class,” “Confirm date of hair appointment,” “Look up average temperatures in Ireland for July (AND CONVERT FROM CELSIUS!),” “Brine Chicken,” “Roast chicken” and, naturally, “Look up and record calories for roasted chicken.” All of these tasks yield really intense accomplishments (especially CONVERT FROM CELSIUS!), but do they warrant entire lines on my serious to do list? Debatable.
These lines fill my to do list less to feign productivity (I mean, who am I kidding?), and more to soften the terror of that one scary WRITE item. If I can accomplish all of the other tasks around it, maybe WRITE will just be another easy box to check after I brine the chicken. Without these lines, I have one thing to do, it might not go well, and there will be no immediate results.
While comforting, these lines can also be really dangerous. It’s so much easier to cross off the easy lines (my chicken is brining as we speak) than to tackle the one hard line. From there, it’s really easy to look at a to do list of 30 items with 29 of them crossed off, pat oneself on the back, and retire to the couch to watch Law & Order.**
It’s time to start dividing my list into “real things that need to happen” and “everything else,” with “everything else” reserved for the nights and weekends, just like during the employed days.
Minus the chicken brining. That’s still a 9-5 task. I’m not yet prepared to give up the juicy chicken prepared at a reasonable dinner hour that unemployment enables. I will hold on to that job(less) perk until the salaried days inevitably return.
*And there’s the problem.