The Not-To-Do List

On a previous post, I talked about how occasionally one might feel the need for a mental tidy. One of the most notorious contributors to that cluttered feeling is the T0-Do List.

We are all familiar with this sometimes growing, often never shrinking list of things that we must do, in order to keep our lives from descending into chaos. Sound dramatic? Don’t do the dishes or mow the lawn or recycle the garbage for a while. You may find yourself trapped in your house, a camera crew waiting outside and your family preparing for an intervention. I’m just saying.

But we never let it get that far, do we. We soldier on, pushing that rock on up that hill. Why? Because there’s no one else to do it? If it’s going to be done, you want it done right, and you’re the only one for the job? What will the neighbours think? What would you think of yourself?

Let’s start dissecting these arguments. You might find a Not-To-Do List surprisingly easy to create.

The no-one-else-could-do-it-like-I want-it-done Syndrome

Who else indeed. Did you know that there are entire professions, list of professionals, with the necessary skills and tools to get these jobs done? Google it. You might be surprised at how many enterprising people are providing a service for almost any task. Especially those that you might not feel are the best use of your precious time. Not only that, but as professionals they probably have standards that are even higher than anything you might be able to accomplish.

Got’em, Need’em, Trade’em Technique

Can’t afford to pay? Barter. That’s right. If you can’t afford a professional, barter with your mate, your kids, a family member, or even a neighbour. What might it take for a neighbour to mow your lawn while they’re doing theirs? You can return the favour in whatever ‘currency’ you both determine is fair. And who knows? What one person thinks of as a chore, could be a form of relaxation for another. You might be doing your bartering partner a favour in more ways than just relieving them of an undesirable task. You might actually be giving them something to do that they enjoy.

Other People Opinion Anxiety

Worried about what other will people think? Frankly they’ll probably think oh, thank goodness. I thought I was the only one. Sharing the load is something humans have had to do since we hunted on the plains. The fact that we have machines now and are isolated in our little boxed-off domiciles has made us forget that. Ask for a hand. Better yet, reach out a hand. You might find people are eager to take it and reciprocate the favour.

The Inner-Critic Visit

Now perhaps that negative voice in your head pipes up. You worry what does a Not-To-Do List say about you? It says you’re a realistic enterprising person who knows how to manage their time and recognizes the skills they have and values the skills of others. Look around your office, your neighbourhood, your home. Are there people with the skill-set, mind-set or abilities better suited to some of the tasks on your list? Are you better suited for something on theirs? Just because an item started on your list, doesn’t mean it has to stay there.

In closing

Now, there will be those jobs that just have to be done by you. Whether by necessity or circumstance, you just can’t put them on your Not-To-Do List.  If, however, you’ve re-examined these items and thinned the herd a little, maybe you won’t feel so trampled by the ones remaining.

How do you manage your To-Do List? What might go on your Not-To-Do List?



As you can see from my blogroll, I’m a fan of Ted Talks. If you haven’t yet, I recommend you check it out. Ted presents a wealth of inspiring talks given by inspiring people. It’s like a smorgasbord of heart, soul and mind candy. Except that these are all good for you.

One such delicious treat is the talk given by Shawn Achor. His topic, The Happy Secret to Better Work, is not only thought provoking, but down-right funny. He discusses principles on positive psychology, exploring the concept that success comes from happiness, not the other way. And at this point in our November endeavors, we NANOWRIMO writers might need such good news.

We’ve reached the half way mark. The thrill of the blank page is over. The excitement of meeting your characters and exploring new settings or even worlds is gone. The rush you got from seeing your words spread across the page like droplets of paint into water has turned into so much inky mud. The joy has been replaced by the mad juggling act of keeping in the air all the balls of what has happened so far, and where it all must lead. You’re perhaps a little behind in your word count.  Nothing on the page is making sense. Doubt has started to creep in. But that’s when you need to be positive.

Cast aside the temptation to allow your inner editor to enter the stage. Close the door on stage right and focus on right now. Stop questioning what you’ve done. You’ve changed your mind and your romantic lead is suddenly swarthy and dark, not blonde and blue eyed? Your planet name has morphed into something almost unpronounceable? The Femme Fatal is now the Mentor? Don’t sweat it. Make a comment. Jot down a reminder. You’ve got ‘Draft 2’ to iron out all those inconsistencies, once the big picture is there in front of you.

Let it just happen. You may even discover that the story is talking to you. Here, in the midst of the influence of the muse, within the freedom of non-judgement, in the throws of getting all those darn words on the page, you’ve got a chance to listen to the story that lives inside you. Indulge in the journey of the pen to page, or the finger to keyboard as the case may be.  Give yourself permission to explore. Only then will you reach the end with something in hand. And the only way that will happen is if you stay positive and keep going.

If after getting a dose of positivity from the video, you want more from Mr. Achor, I highly recommend his books Before Happiness and The Happiness Advantage. In them, he lays out steps you can take to bring more positivity into your life. He believes by employing principles of positive psychology, we can improve our well-being for the long-term. And there’s nothing more long-term than writing a novel.

But of course don’t read them right this minute. You’ve got to push through this hump and get those words on the page.

Just remember to enjoy the journey my fellow Nanowrimo-ians.