The Ever-lengthening To-Do List

Living in North Carolina, when snow comes, life comes to a grinding halt.  In a supposedly temperate climate, snow is a rare occurrence most of the time.  We get flurries every few years but a hard snow isn’t a reliable ordeal.  As such, when snow hits, it can take us a few days to recover.

Add to this the dawn of the near year, and having just come off of MAGFest and the publication of three books, I feel like the groundhog who is supposed to take a look around next Friday.

And lo, do we find the To-Do List.

That long list of things we want to do, should do, and need to do.  Everything from buy new shoes to rake the yard to make a dentist appointment to buy a rake so you can rake the yard.  So many things, of such varying complexity and demands.  My to-do list includes simple things like ‘call such-and-such’ and more demanding things like ‘figure out how to turn Crossworld into an anime’.

With so many hours in the day and only so much energy (I wake up tired), dealing with the to-do list is often trying.  Sometimes it’s so daunting, I don’t even want to look at it.  Occasionally, I’ve even made a To-Do list of things so I would avoid opening my actual To-Do List.  Kind of sad, if you ask me.

But thus far, I’ve been making some progress.  I created an Excel file and made each task a single field in a (very) long column.  As I progress, I simply delete the row, moving everything up one.  If something turns out to require multiple steps, I simply insert some new rows, making each step a new item.

Every day, one item gets cleared.  One, and ONLY ONE.  If there is one secret to success I’ve learned over the years, it’s to low-ball effort.  Put in the time, do the work, all of that, but if you can leave a task with a bit of energy left, do so.  It makes coming back for tomorrow a little bit easier.

So one item a day, and the item at the top of the list.  If I get to that item and it’s ‘too hard’, then I figure out how to break it down into smaller, more digestible steps.  If the task requires something from someone else, I follow-up on it.  This helps keep me from jumping around and it helps me stay on task.  Top of the list, no exceptions.  One item, each day, no exceptions.

And more often than not, it hasn’t been a problem.  Most of the time, clearing one item per day only takes fifteen minutes, give or take.  As I look at this list, I can see some things that will take longer…or maybe they’ll need to get broken up into other tasks.  But with each passing day, I can tell I’m building momentum.  With each passing day, knocking off one thing off the to-do list is becoming increasingly automatic.

Success isn’t an achieved state, it’s a habit.  And all habits require training and reinforcement.  As I said above, there’s a time for hard work, but there’s also a time for easy wins.  Success is a habit, so build the habit with easy victories.  That way, when the more difficult tasks present themselves, you’ve already got a history of success.

***

Katsucon is closing fast!  See you February 16th-18th in National Habor!

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Author: Robert V Aldrich

Author. Speaker. Cancer Researcher. Martial Artist. Illustrator. Cat dad. Nerd.

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