The To-Do List

Many years ago, when I was feeling just slightly overwhelmed with life, someone gave me a piece of very good advice–write it down. Write down all the things that are swirling around in your head and stressing you out. I said, but what if I still can’t get it all done? She said, well, then those things probably weren’t all that important.

Duh! Did I mention I was slightly overwhelmed at the time?

I went out and bought a PDA. And I did just what she said–wrote everything down. Okay, I stylused everything down.

And she was right. It helped. I think this is because, along with all the pressure of thinking we have SO much to do, there comes that fear that we’ll forget one or more of the tasks, and then…you know, the world will stop turning.

Life got more cope-able eventually, but I never did let go of my list habit. Many times, I end up doing just what I was “worried” about–not actually getting to the items on the list. Which, I have found out, is definitely okay. Sometimes the list itself can be just a little scary, but only if I actually let myself stare at it for too long. You know, rather than picking a job and getting it done.

Here’s the big thing about the list–it lets me get my writing in. First of all, yes, I always include my writing on the list. But more than that, the list puts me back into a make-it-work mode. It proves to me that I am right–I have plenty to do. Which means it is time to shift out of my rambly, whatever-pops-up-first-into-my-face methodology into a more organized state of being.

In other words, get back to my fiction-first rule.

This week, I have a pile of non-writing work stuff that I have to plow through, while son’s out of school. Next week, though, when those things are out of the way and we’re back on a more structured schedule, the list still won’t be truly depleted.

That’s okay. Because next week…wait for it:

Fiction comes before taxes. On my list and in real life.

Do you love lists? Hate them? Hang onto them like the life-preserver behind a high-powered speed boat? Here’s to however you make it all work!


  1. Ha! Taxes! Yeah, not high on my list either 🙂

    I’ve always had to-do lists, though not a PDA. Mine are usually on scraps of paper that sometimes need to be tracked down. But getting it out of my head and onto paper helps tremendously. Then I can use my brain cells for creativity instead of stressing out about things I need to do.


    • beckylevine says:

      When I bought the PDA, I was in a “place” where I was truly panicky about holding things in my head for any length of time, or losing a note to myself. The PDA fit into my purse and could come out anytime I needed to have something jotted down. Then everything was in one place,too.

      I’m not quite so bad these days, but I admit I do occasionally use my Blackberry to email myself a reminder, so when I get home it’ll be there waiting for me. 🙂


  2. Jeanie W says:

    Hang onto them like the life-preserver, definitely! I am paralyzed when I try to keep all the things I need to do in active memory. I need to get everything down on paper before I can stop fretting and focus on one task.

    I’m with you on the taxes. I’ll be doing mine after the conference on 3/12. Dummy and portfolio pieces top my list right now.


    • beckylevine says:

      I’m so glad we all have our priorities straight (although I’m not sure my accountant would be so thrilled!). I love the reminder about active memory–I’ve always likened it to the old days when you could actually fill up a “floppy” disk, and then–when you tried to copy something else onto it, even tho there was enough space for storage, there wasn’t enough space to copy AND store the new thing. 🙂


  3. I organize my entire life with lists. If I don’t organize my workday the night before, I tend to get nothing accomplished.


  4. Hadn’t thought about putting writing on the top of my to do list. Nice idea. I always feel just a little better about all the other jobs when I’ve done something related to my WIP. Speaking of which…I think I’ll go read some of it right now. Thanks for the reminder!


  5. Dave Swords says:

    Hi, Becky.

    I find that the older I get, the more I need a “to do” list. And, now I need a sticky-note to remind me to look at my list.

    I wonder what’s next! 🙂


  6. I’m making a list right now. Some of the things HAVE to be done. Others, maybe not. But I am going to write them down anyway. As I check them off, I’ll have that “AHHHHH!” feeling of accomplishment! 🙂


  7. >>Fiction comes before taxes.<<

    I like this! And I, too, am amazed by the power of lists. Making one can somehow soothe me and energize me at the same time.


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