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The Power of To-Do Lists

*This is a post that I originally wrote for The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog before it went down and came back. I'm reposting the article here since it is no longer on the site.

 Every morning, without fail, I create a to-do list that usually keeps me busy throughout the day. The satisfaction I get from writing a check mark is only rivalled by the satisfaction I get from biting into a chocolate bar.

First off, consistently creating and following a to-do list is important. Part of me wants to tag on a shy 'Maybe...depending upon the person,' but the differences I've seen in satisfaction and progression between those who list and those who just rely on their mind are too distinct. If there's a lot of stuff you need/want to get done, lots of stuff that will depress you if you forget, create a list. Most serious writers have a lot on their plate, definitely when it comes to networking and promotion, so I'm especially talking to you if you inhabit that broad category.

You may think you're too busy to sit down for two minutes and sloppily jot down what you want to accomplish (you can eat breakfast and write simultaneously, y'know); you may be a very unorganized person by nature who likes every day to be a spontaneous surprise; you may be too scatterbrained to get into the habit of doing a list every day; heck, you may even be dead set on the idea that no written list can beat your all-powerful mental list.

You know what? I still say write a list because I once was all of those types (except unorganized) and none of that stopped me. Here are some pointers:

  • Make the list extremely long so you won't feel bad if you can't check everything off. Because my lists are often scary, off-the-wall ridiculous, I can easily say, "It's okay I didn't complete everything. I mean, it would've been impossible, and I'm just human after all." Is that cheating in a sense? Perhaps.

  • Find the number you are okay stopping at. As long as I check off the 3-5 most important things on the list, I'm satisfied. 

Lists are a great way for you to see how much closer you are to your main goals. I'm all about drawing the big picture (listing major goals), breaking it into a number of puzzle pieces (listing minor goals), and then drawing the big picture again.

More importantly, though, lists and check marks are an obvious indication that you're not wasting your life away. At the end of the day, note how much you've completed (not how much you haven't; that's counterproductive) and notice how good you feel about yourself before sleeping.

I announce what I've completed on Facebook - not to seek validation from others, but to seek validation from myself. Social networking sites can make stating your daily accomplishments, things you want to complete and actually did thanks to a list, seem so much more final, like you're proud enough to share your progress with everyone who can read your statuses.

And you should be. So get in the habit of writing those lists.
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