May 30, 2013

When To-Do Lists Fail

Page labeled Things To Do with text: When To-Do Lists FAIL

Ever have one of those days where nothing on your to-do list gets checked off? When life has other plans for you?

That happens to me more often than I care to admit. Despite my writing-by-the-seat-of-my-pants method to drafting, I’m a planner in the rest of my life. Or at least, I try to be organized like that.

Realistically, my email inbox is a disaster and my answer when people ask me how I accomplish so much is, “I flail randomly. I don’t recommend it.” Even before I started writing, a motto of mine was, “I plan. God laughs.”

I used to stress about those days. But I guess I’ve now lived long enough to realize the world doesn’t end if we fall apart or slack occasionally. The to-do list will still be there for us tomorrow.

I wouldn’t recommend letting hard deadlines slide, but most of our deadlines are internal rather than external. And those are prime candidates for stressing us out more than necessary.

Case in point, this post is the result of one of those days. Luckily, it was a good one of those days.

was going to write a post about how to make a problematic story come together, but that’s going to have to wait until next week. Heck, I was going to remember to eat lunch yesterday. Dinner barely happened. (Yay for delivery pizza!) Yeah, writing one of my typical epic-sized posts wasn’t in the cards.

Instead, my day was taken up by a new, all-consuming family project. Yes, that’s right. A year after the loss of my 21-year-old cat, we decided to add to the family.

Meet Raven, my newest distraction. *smile*

Raven - our all-black kitten

We rescued this tiny 8-week-old girl from the pound yesterday. She’s adorable, cuddly, and has the loudest purr I’ve ever heard. She runs to me when I sit on the floor (“Mommy!”) and loves falling asleep in one of our laps. We’ll see how long that lasts before she wants to be a keyboard-sitting cat. *grin*

Suffice it to say that this little kitten was the most spoiled cat alive yesterday. She went from a small death-row cage to tearing up and down the hallway of her new home. *gallop, gallop, gallop* (Wow, this place is big enough for me to run!”) *passes out in the nearest lap*

So while I had great plans for today’s post, it couldn’t compete with Raven discovering her shadow in a sunbeam for the first time. *pounce* *bonks into wall* Or her scampering after us throughout the house, heeling as well as a dog. Or the giggles of the whole family as we watched her learn about the existence of these cool things called… *squee* Toys!

I’ve posted a lot about how we have to be willing to make sacrifices for our writing sometimes, and I still believe that. But that doesn’t mean we should sacrifice all the time, or even every weekend. In fact, sometimes we have to know when living life is the most important thing on our to-do list. *smile*

How do you handle days when you can’t cross anything off your to-do list? Do you scramble to catch up, or do you shrug it off like Scarlet O’Hara and say “Tomorrow is another day”? Do you ever take life-needs-me mental health days? Do you have any cute animal stories to share?

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Michelle Roberts
Michelle Roberts

This happened to me recently too. Only my distraction was the yorkie puppy we bought. It took me a good week to adjust my routine where I could spend time with puppy and still get stuff done. She does insist on sitting on my lap while I’m at my desk writing, though. And I don’t mind, because then she’s at least not tearing up stuff she shouldn’t be. 🙂

Buffy Armstrong

Congrats on the new family member! That must be very exciting for everyone. Kittens are so much fun. However, they are complete menaces. This one looks like trouble. Have fun!! We had one of those trouble kittens and eight years later, she hasn’t outgrown her run-real-real-fast-and-then-collapse-on-couch tendencies. Nothing beats an awesome cat.

I tend to adopt Scarlet O’Hara’s view point. Tomorrow is another day. You can only do so much at any given time. As long as everyone is still breathing, you’ve done enough.

Melinda S. Collins

Oh my goodness, this has been happening to me here recently, too. LOL! My distractions are generally just … life. I’m enjoying spending more time with my husband–relaxing, watching TV and movies– instead of being in front of my computer all night and weekend like I used to. And we’re about to make big decisions that require a lot focus and as little stress as possible on my part, so I guess it’s just my brain preparing me subconsciously? I dunno… it’s odd and I’m trying to get myself back on the wagon full-time again. 🙂 Raven is SO ADORABLE, Jami! 😀 My cats are always trying to distract me with their cuteness. They’re not afraid of water, so whenever we’re in the bathroom they sit next to the sink and wait for one of us to turn on the faucet. Both cats drink from a light stream of cold water, and our oldest, Dusty, likes to roll around in the tub after I get out of the shower. They’re odd, I know. 🙂 A neat toy idea for you is to give Raven an empty toilet paper roll. My youngest, Ashe, plays with that more than the toys we paid for. He’ll lie on one side of a door and play with the toilet paper roll by stretching his arm through the small space between the floor and the door. And sometimes when he’s running through the house–“I’m free! I’m free!”–he’ll turn the corner in the kitchen so fast…  — Read More »

Kim Barton

What a cutie! A new kitty is definitely worth putting off the to-do list.

I tend to shrug it off when I don’t accomplish what’s on my to-do list. I just move it to the next day.

I take a mental health day every week. I feel like I need one day a week when I don’t work at my job, I don’t edit my non-fiction book, I don’t plan my fiction book, I don’t blog, I don’t do work for my dojo, and I don’t clean house or do laundry. I read, watch movies or TV shows, play music, play video games with my son, or whatever else I feel is fun. It helps me to be more productive during the week when I take that day off.

Renee A. Schuls-Jacobson

Mazel tov on the newest addition to the family! I have more days like this than I can count. I’m at the point in my life where I am chief shlepper for a boy who, apparently, doesn’t plan to stop growing any time soon. WHich means I’m also constantly shopping for food and new clothes. And did I mention shoes? Yes, he needs those, too.


I’m learning to roll with it.

I am only blogging once a week these days.

And I’m shelving my latest project for a while.


That’s a bit of a sanity saver.

But I have definite days of the week where I just don’t let distractions throw me off my game. Like today, when it is gorgeous outside? Well, I made a commitment to go to bake challah, and I did. You might have to allow yourself some love time for now, but be prepared to lock the office doors at some point. You know, in about a week or so. 😉


I relate to the random flailing part. I’m juggling so many things right now — writing, critiquing, blogging, etc. — that my email inbox shows over 4500 unread messages. I’m subscribed to way too many writing blogs!

Congratulations on Raven! We picked up two kittens several weeks ago, but we’ve had to keep them in a separate room from our other two cats until they could be tested for feline leukemia. They were tested today and passed with flying colors so we’ll be introducing the cats to each other tonight. Should be fun.


Excuse me a moment…OH EM GEE YOU HAVE A KITTEN HERE KITTY KITTY *dies of cuteness overload*

I’m better now.

I think getting a new pet acclimated is a perfectly valid reason for not completing things on your to-do list. They need your attention just as much as your husband or children do, right? Right.

I’ve been known to take the occasional mental health day…and last summer I took my very first “I’ve been waiting for this book for two years and I’m gonna sit on the couch and read it ALL DAY LONG” day (and I’ll be doing that again next Tuesday). We need them every once in a while, because let’s face it, once you’re an adult, weekends aren’t for playing anymore. They’re more like an extension of the workweek, where you cram in all your chores you didn’t get done during the week. You just get to sleep in a little later 🙂

As for cute animal stories…when I got my cat, I was living in a tiny basement apartment. I moved about a year later to a much bigger apartment, and until I found a better place for it, I set the scratching post in the middle of the living room floor. Demeter, as soon as I let her out of her carrier, went NUTS. Race back to the bedroom, race out to the living room, attack the scratching post, repeat, repeat, repeat. I think it was her way of telling me “Hey, thanks for getting a bigger place!”

Teresa Robeson

Raven is beeeeyooootiful! I’d drop everything to giggle over her too. As for that to-do list. I never cross everything off of it. If I get 2-3 things crossed off, I call the day a success, and try to start the next day a little earlier. 😛

Kern Windwraith

Raven is the cutest excuse ever for letting the writing come second for a change. What an irresistible little beastie.

Ah, to do lists. They are mighty handy things for forcing some order on life’s chaos, but we have to allow ourselves a modicum of flexibility or we’ll go bonkers. I’m currently allowing myself way too much flexibility, but that’s another story and one I’m going to have to rewrite forthwith. 🙂

Jami, I don’t comment often enough on your blog (because of the aforementioned chaos), but I just wanted to take a few seconds to tell you how much I enjoy and benefit from your posts. You’ve shared so many practical tips and links and insights since I started subscribing–you’re like a treasure trove of awesomeness for the striving writer. Thank you for that!

Jami's Tech Guy (Jay)


I knew it was a bad idea for you to talk to TechGirl about Raven. Especially when you told TG about Raven’s litter mates.

There was a post-it note on my monitor this morning saying:

Please let me have a kitty!
PS It is very cute.

Of course, TechWife folded last night so I knew I was toast. And well, Raven is kinda cute. So is her sister TechCat (aka FuzzButt)… who is currently batting at my left hand as I (try to) type this.


PS. And yes, I’ll post a picture of both TechCat & the infernal post-it-note. 🙂


Resistance is futile! Bwhahahaha.

Jami's Tech Guy (Jay)

That’s usually my line. :/

*goes to see if TechCat will chase a USB mouse*


Haley Whitehall

Another great post, Jami! Raven is adorable. Squee.
I have a soft spot for cats. My week hasn’t been a total to-do list fail, but it was close. I just keep telling myself it will wait till tomorrow. Like you said, the world won’t end even though sometimes it feels like it!


‘Shadow bonking’ – priceless

I like to call it organisied flailing!

Serena Yung
Serena Yung

Scarlett O’ Hara! 😀 I love her. ^^ Raven is so cute! ^^ But I’m sorry to hear about your previous 21 year old cat. 🙁 May he (or she) rest in peace. LOL, love your motto: “I plan. God laughs.” XD Yeah, I agree that it’s so impossible to stick to the exact same schedule every single day, because something always happens to change your plans XD When doing Nanowrimo, I used some techniques to help me, like: must finish writing today’s portion before checking email and Facebook; or no dinner with friends until after this month (lol)—although lunch with friends was okay because these took much less time. But even with such “strategies”, there were still many days when I didn’t make it and I had to do extra to compensate the next day! Yet telling my friends about my Nanowrimo daily progress helped me avoid distractions as much as possible though, lol, thankfully. Good point about needing to make sacrifices for our writing–and also good point that sometimes our “real life” (even if our writing life feels more “real” to us ^^) should be prioritized instead, for instance, taking good care of our health. It certainly isn’t good to be extreme and sacrifice everything for writing. As obsessed with writing as I am, I still wouldn’t want myself to give up my social life (whether in person, emails, or Facebook), partly because socializing is so pleasurable, lol, but mostly because I think it would be unhealthy if…  — Read More »

Melissa Maygrove

Good and timely post. My ‘one of those days’ has turned into one of those *months*, and will probably continue throughout this whole summer. Not good for us control freaks who don’t like sudden changes in our plans.

Love the new kitty. Glad you posted about that instead. Your story brightened my day. 🙂

Diana Beebe

Raven is adorable! Congratulations on the new addition!

My to do list is too long right now. Quite a bit of it requires major reorganization of my office space and my closet. It’s the stuff I dread, but it’s long overdue. Sigh.


So happy you took in a fur baby!!!

I am owned by more than a few, and while my kitties come with agendas of their own, I wouldn’t ever give them up,

To do lists and kitty agendas do not always mesh lol, and those to do list loses every time


Rinelle Grey

That’s the cutest reason for not writing a long detailed post I’ve seen all week!

I would love to have my days planned out, and I’m sure I’d get a lot more done, but it never happens. Today’s alternative was spending the day making cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday party tomorrow. Yes, my story’s important, but so is making memories with my daughter, so writing often takes a backseat. I just fit it in where I can.

Rhenna Morgan

I cope one bottle of wine at a time.

Susan Saxx

What a lovely blog, Jami! I’m happy for you and Raven. Wonder what else she’s discovering now, LOL? *rumble-purr*

Taurean Watkins

Glad the new kitten’s working out for you, Jami.

My dog Pepper’s getting on in years (12) and I don’t know what I’ll do if I have to make a similar choice as you did.

Any life-altering decision gets me panicked unless I know it’s right for me.

I’m terrible at making snap decisions. If only because they make me a cranky demon, temper wise.


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