Getting distracted, or the benefits of a to-do list

It’s hot. Not, really hot, but UK hot. And I’m bothered. And I’ve got far too much running around my head – literally idea after idea is queueing up, waving their hands to grab my attention, and I don’t have the time or the space to deal with them.

Photo by Luis Quintero on

So, what do I do? Well, I bounce around, I stare at half-finished sentences trying to remember what I was trying to write, I throw pens, I pick them up again, I play Solitaire on my phone, I put a half-hour limit on Solitaire. I gaze out of the window.

This is where a to-do list would be helpful. I have a diary – a week-to-view A5 one – which is perfect for lists. I’ve had one for the past couple of years and they are crammed with everything from doctors’ appointments to story ideas to deadlines for writing competitions I want to enter. So far – nine days into the academic year format I prefer- there’s very little in it, because it’s all still in my head!

Do you write lists? Here are a few reasons why they’re great:

  • So you don’t forget – appointments, birthdays, that perfect sentence for that story you’ll be revising next month.
  • To keep yourself accountable – I might jot down when hope to finish a set of edits and move on to the next stage, or when I want to return to a project after letting it rest. If I’ve dawdled or procrastinated too much, it will be obvious!
  • Writing something down can free your mind for more pressing things – I’m prone to fixating on something, usually at inconvenient times, because I’m worried if I stop thinking about it, I’ll forget it. Just write it down, silly. Or JWIDS, if you prefer. Now we can fill our heads with the next thing…
  • A full to-do list can make you feel accomplished – you don’t even have to cross them off to feel like you’re achieving something. Just the intention of doing it and committing it to paper means you’re half-way there.
  • And you can even plan doing nothing at all – because we all need down time, especially in the middle of a heatwave!

Do you keep a do-to list? Do you finish it all then create another, or have a rolling list and tick off the items ad-hoc? Do you have a diary for the purpose, a notebook, the back of an envelope? What’s on your list right now?

11 thoughts on “Getting distracted, or the benefits of a to-do list

  1. My to do lists are insane. Once I start writing them, I keep adding and adding knowing full well there is not enough time to do it all, and yet…I keep adding. Maybe I am hoping for magic. I’m not sure.


    1. A single sentence can inspire great things later on. A folder is a great idea – much more organised than the pieces of paper on my desk which get blown around by the wind!


  2. I have a detailed to-do list by my computer and I add to things days in advance. I also have a to-do checklist for books we publish. It’s a lot to keep up with!


    1. Being on both sides of the publishing industry, to-do lists must be essential for you. I’m considering self-publishing a short story collection, and I’m already overwhelmed.


  3. I love to-do lists. I tend to make one for the year, the month, the week, and each day. I make so many to-do lists that it’s highly possible that I would be, in fact, more productive if I spent a little less time making lists and a little more time actually doing what’s on them. 🙂

    Hope you get some relief from the heat soon.


    1. 😅 A novel in lists, perhaps? Or at least a short story?

      The heat is set to break tomorrow morning, with a tiny but of rain forecast. I’ve got my fingers crossed.


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