Day 6 at NaNoWriMo – Making a To-Do List

To Do List


I am a big fan of to-do lists.

There is nothing in the world that I can’t accomplish once I have put it on my to-do list.

I usually like to start the day before. If I am on a night shift at work then I will keep a scrap of paper handy and when something jumps into my head that needs taking care of I jot it down on tomorrow’s to-do list.

Then, when I get home I put that to-do list on my keyboard so that I know first thing in the morning that I need to do something to cross out something on that to-do list.

Some of the to-do list items are pretty simple – like “Do Laundry” or “Take Out Garbage”. These are things that I would probably do but might forget – so I usually try to get to them early in the day.

Others are a little harder – like “Write one chapter” or “Clean up my office”.

All right, so that “Clean up my office” is damn near impossible for me – but I at least try to go through and throw out a bit of the clutter every day or two. It still looks like a landfill fell somewhere in here weekly for the last millenia or so – but so long as it is on my To-Do list I make it a point to get a little bit done.

Other items are giveaways. “Comb hair” or “Wash face” is easy – but it is important that I put it on my To-Do list JUST so that I can cross it off. The act of crossing off ANY item on a To-Do list builds the illusion of momentum.

That’s what a To-Do list is mostly for.

It gives you that illusion of control and momentum – which is another way of saying that list allows you to tell yourself a story about you having control and momentum in your life – AND IF YOU TELL A STORY LONG ENOUGH IT BECOMES TRUE.

That’s what all of these “Secret Self-Help Techniques” boil down to. You kid yourself long enough into something and it will actually become a part of your life. You won’t ever tell yourself that “I never comb my hair” because you do so every day.

And I know my wife is out there shaking her head and thinking to herself that I probably comb my hair about once every three days if there has been a strong wind blowing but that’s just how it is sometimes.

To-Do lists work for novel writing as well. Tonight before you go to bed why don’t you write yourself a To-Do list for your next chapter and leave it on your keyboard for you to see in the morning. Jot a few notes about what you want to accomplish in the morning with that chapter and odds are you’ll just fall into writing it and it will become easy. You will have both momentum and control.

Give it a try and see.

I passed the 15000 word mark this morning hitting 15,300 – which is almost a third of the way through my 50000 word goal.

Let me scratch that off my To-Do list.


9 responses to “Day 6 at NaNoWriMo – Making a To-Do List

  1. Awesome post! What is your usual word count for books? I am between 35-45k.


  2. Well done on that word count! Unreal! I am in awe. And also with you on to-do. If only to focus me on what I am supposed to be doing, so I don’t see the first e-mail and think “oooh shiny thing” and spend the whole day distracted doing other things.




    • Thank you. This productivity is solely the result of my applying myself to this NaNoWriMo framework. I have been bogged down over the last year and this is REALLY helping me shake the cobwebs loose. I want to be able to keep this rate up without the artificial encouragement of NaNoWriMo – but I do get a bit of a buzz when I enter my new word count and see the graph go up accordingly.


  3. I love To Do lists. And I like putting easy-to-scratch-off things on them.

    I find I make a lot of progress over a period of months as I look back on my lists. It doesn’t feel like a lot on a daily basis (other than the relief of getting to scratch an item off), but over time…things get accomplished.

    Thanks for the post.


  4. I’m now a fan of the app. What’s really great about it is it nags me with alerts until I can honestly check off that task as done.
    I’ve done notes to myself for plot points in the past, but I think I will give your more thorough approach a try. Thanks for posting!


  5. Love the word count marathon! Your insights on to-do lists are… well. Insightful! I don’t often add items to easily cross off my to do list but I do like the sneaky sense of satisfaction I get from crossing off ringers. It’s almost subversive.

    Thanks for sharing that, Steve! It was a fun read!


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