Rachel Rodriguez, Assistant Director to the Writing Center
1. Embrace the fact that your first to-do list is only a draft. You won’t like your handwriting, so you’ll rewrite it on a clean post-it
2. Write “write to-do list” on the to-do list
3. Adopt a skewed sense of the passage of time as you envision bewildering productivity, and amass a semester’s worth of tasks to accomplish that day. Feel great.
4. For good measure, add a few freebies, like “take out trash” and “return Redbox movie” so if the worst comes, at 11:48pm you could still get 2 things accomplished.
5. Think about the to-do list in the shower, while you’re stirring oatmeal, as you apply mascara. Add to the to-do list about 70% of the tasks that occur to you during this time, and save the rest for existential dread dream-material.
6. Break down large projects into small tasks for more check-off-ability. Long lists are impressive and convince you of your own work ethic, and checking off items frequently is vital for kindling the small fire of hope in your breast. If at all possible, this must be an eternal flame.
7. Once you’re satisfied with the list as it stands, transfer to new post-it in perfect handwriting and cross off #2.
8. Keep the list nearby as you work, like a little nagging buddy, like a cute kitten who wants to sleep on your laptop keys.
9. Watch about 28 minutes of kitten videos. Once you reach Sarah McLachlan, stop.
10. Check in on the list at lunch, and feel panic encroaching. Add “take shower,” “make oatmeal,” and “relax with virtual cats” to list, then promptly cross off.
11. Savor the delicious tug of the pen as it swipes across the items that no longer exist as things you need to do. They are behind you now, cities in your rearview.
12. After a good bout of work, sense the futility of your long list. Adjust as the boundaries of actual space and time demand. Start tomorrow’s draft list.
13. Much more satisfied, allow yourself to accidentally fall asleep in the warmth of the Saturday afternoon sun, which is of course, the best kind of sun.
14. Wake suddenly from a fathomless sleep and immediately add something incredibly pressing and completely clear to “current-you,” yet enigmatic for “future-you” to decipher. See #5. Example: “Beavers and Ducks!”
15. Work diligently.
16. Return the Redbox movie. You only rent movies anyway so you can return them. Both renting and returning are valid reasons to drive around outside and see humans.
17. At the end of the day, acknowledge the stragglers on your list. There will, of course, be several items that have managed to linger through multiple iterations of lists, perhaps even for weeks. These are things you are avoiding. Probably important emails to write, or meetings to schedule. Try to confront at least one scary thing, and reward yourself by moving all other avoidances to tomorrow’s list. At the top, of course, for added visibility and guilt.
18. Save perfecting tomorrow’s list for tomorrow, to give yourself an easy start.
19. Always end your to-do list on an even number of tasks. For luck.