Pretty much everyone who knows me, knows I am easily categorized as a rude slut. Less people know that there is a little more to me than that. One of my well-kept secrets is my love of getting things done. As a general rule, productivity is not considered to be very punk rock. In reading this you will now join the few who know that my devil-may-care persona masks a highly efficient person underneath. Lately though, I've been a little overtaxed. It seems that everyone has come to rely on me for plan-making, group-gathering, and rabble-rousing. It isn't that I resent taking this responsibility, but I do mind the growing sense that nothing ever gets done unless I do it myself. At first I thought I was just being conceited, so I decided to take a week off to prove to myself that the world could go on spinning without me.
After a week, it became clear that no one I know is capable of finding their own ass using both hands. And conceited though it may seem; I am among the few, the proud, the people who get stuff done. So now I'd like to share the single secret of my deadly efficiency, so that other people can start getting stuff done too, leaving me a little more time to fuck sailors (one of my less-secret loves).
For me, getting things done is a deeply satisfying activity which begins and ends with the art of list-making. I love making lists. I love checking them twice. I love crossing things off of them. I hate leaving things left undone on them. Generally I leave list-making for extremely high-impact days, where I wish to accomplish a lot, and need the structure which a list provides. But recently, I've been on a real list-making bender - one a day for the last two weeks. And they have been two of the more productive weeks I've had in years.
So for anyone feeling at a loss for motivation, or for any of my slacker-ass friends who may be out there reading, here are some hot tips on how to make a list do the work for you.
1. Have good list-making equipment – part of what inspired my list-making spree was a pad my housemate purchased for $1 at Target and gave me as a present. It is long and narrow with a hard cover – the ideal list-making pad of all time. I carry it with me wherever I go now, and the hard cover protects my lists, and gives me a hard surface to write against. I also favor the use of those colorful Gelly Roll™ pens, they are nice to write with, and you can use them to color-coordinate your list if you are really a maniac.
2. Make master lists and sub-lists – before I start a list for the day, I like to refer to a "brainstorm" list where I amass all tasks, big and small, that I can think to do. As new things arise, I add them to this list. Then later, as I make a daily activities list, I can find things to-do which fit into the activities that are already planned for the day. I also like to make sub-lists, for example, I may put the item get groceries on a daily list, with an asterisk that takes me to a groceries list on the back of the page. That way if you think of another thing you need to pick up at the grocery store, you don't mess up your whole list.
3. Put a couple of throwaway items into the mix – for me, the main incentive to the list is the fact that I derive intense satisfaction from crossing things off of it. As such, I always throw in a few gimmie items on any list – things which, motivated or not, I will do anyway. Things like, take a shower or sleep work for this. Having a few things to cross off your list gets your momentum going to accomplish more things. It also leaves you feeling like you have done a whole lot in a day, thus increasing the satisfaction of completing your tasks.
I do not hesitate to include a few things that I am looking forward to doing, as well; items like get drunk or eat 75-cent samosas in the park with Dave. Just because something is enjoyable is no reason not to put it on your list. My lists also operate as makeshift schedules for my day (see tip #4), so I need to have those items on there, if I want to make time for them.
I also like to put a few wishful items on a list – things that I may not have total control over accomplishing, but would like to see happen. Things like find a $20 bill or meet poker expert Phil Gordon. I am a big believer in self-determination, and I feel putting items of this nature onto a list increases the chances that they will happen.
4. Use your list as a makeshift schedule – I never go so far as to put actual times on my lists, but I do use them to block out the "flow" of my day. This is where having master list are helpful, because you can cross-check them to fill in schedule gaps in your day.
5. Cut yourself a little slack... – you don't always have to finish everything on a list. If I am tired, running late, or simply feeling lazy, I will push things to the next day, or reschedule them.
6. ...but impose some put-off limits – there is nothing wrong with some slack, but too much defeats the To-Do spirit. Generally I circle items I have not attended to, which reminds me to put them on the next list. If I circle something three times, it MUST get done the next time.
7. Productive procrastination – this is something that comes in particularly useful when I am working on several writing projects at once. I will get bored or unable to focus on, say, an article about list-writing, and escape from it by jumping to working on a play or a short story. This is great because it combines getting something done with the guilty pleasure of shirking a responsibility. This idea can be easily expanded into the bigger picture of getting stuff done, by alternating tasks on your list as you tire of getting them done. The only trick is not to jump to something that isn't on your list, for example, switching from clean house to masturbate and pass out.
There you have it, folks. The secret to my success – masturbating and passing out. Wait, no, that's the secret to why I'm always sleeping. The secret to my success is the lists. Try it and you'll see why. The list is a pact with yourself to accomplish something. You have no one to disappoint in that arrangement but you. And me, I guess, which you don't want to do, because I tend to respond to disappoint with extreme violence. So do yourself a favor and check that shit twice!
To read more stuff by Trixie, head on over to bitchingandmoaning.org.