29 Pointless Items on a To Do List of 30


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.

**SVU, obvs.


How easy it is to accomplish nothing

I am now two weeks into being employed-ish, and perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned so far: it is unbelievably easy to accomplish nothing in a day.

I truly thought shooting the moon in the writing productivity area was going to be virtually impossible.  I had to wrote something, even by accident, right?

So. Very. Wrong.

Here is a timeline of how to accomplish nothing in a day:

Midnight - Good night, world!  I am going to have such a productive week! Let me just set that alarm for 8:30.  So reasonable.  I never slept more than seven hours a night when I had a full time job, so this is really luxurious!  With a good night of sleep under my belt, I can accomplish anything tomorrow!  I’ll have half a book done, pretty much!

8:30 - Alarm goes off. Press snooze.

8:35 - Press snooze.

8:40 - Press snooze.

8:45 - Boyfriend grunts “JUST TURN IT OFF.”  Turn alarm off.

9:45 - How is it already 9:45?  Time to get up, I guess.

10:00 - Or watch The Daily Show.  I have to catch up on the news.

10:30 - Alright, I am up.  Good for me!  It’s way before noon, too.  I am going to accomplish so much before Hawaii even goes in for work. Time to write!

10:45 - One of the great things about being unemployed is eating a great breakfast.  I’m going to actually separate my egg whites today.

10:47 - Eh fuck it.  This is a salmonella risk…and someone somewhere said something about good cholesterol.

11:15 - Ok, time to write!

11:20 - I should take the dog for a walk.

11:50 - Ok, time to write!

12:00 - Shoot, if I don’t go to the dry cleaner now, it’s just not going to happen.  The dry cleaners close, I can write at all hours of the day.

1:00 - Ok, time to write!

1:05 - What should I do for lunch?  I should really be eating 6 small meals a day, now that I have time for that.  I’ll note that for tomorrow.

1:30 - Arg I’m behind on my food diary, let me just real quick enter in breakfast and lunch, and then it’s really time to write.

2:00 - Jeeze distinguishing between all those kinds of oven roasted turkey cold cuts took longer than expected, and now that I have all this time I should really be accurate with my calorie count input.

2:05 - If I don’t work out now, it’s just not going to happen, but there’s not a bar method class until 3. Hmmm…I could write for an hour - but it’s really already 2:05, and I need to leave by 2:50 to get to bar method - and I need to get ready for it…my brain will be ready for writing after sweating it out.

4:10 - Ugh I can’t write when I’m sweaty.  I should shower and pull myself together for the day.

4:45 - Ok, time to write!

4:50 - I should really call my mom. It’s getting late on the east coast.

5:20 - Do I have groceries for dinner?  I better run to the store.  Take out is for employed people who can afford Mozza2Go.

6:20 - If I don’t start cooking dinner now, it’s going to be so late before I eat.

8:30 - Ok, time to write!

8:35 - Shoot - I didn’t send any network-y ish e-mails today.  I need to tell more people about how I’m writing now. 

9:35 - I have to catch up on Mad Men from last night before someone ruins it for me.

10:30 - It’s too late to start writing today, isn’t it?  If I stay up late, I’m never going to have a productive day tomorrow.  I should just have a glass of wine, relax, and focus some positive energy thoughts on how I am going to have a productive day tomorrow.

Midnight - Good night, world!  Ready for a productive day tomorrow starting at 8:30.  Well…we should just change that to 9:00.  I probably didn’t accomplish much today because I was too tired.