Getting Things Done

5 years ago

After the sun slides behind the ash trees in my backyard and I’ve satisfied my hunger, my heart begins to thump with anticipation. It’s finally the time I have set aside for GETTING THINGS DONE.

My daylight hours are for pretending to write: hopping around the Internet, pausing periodically to click on the lopsided W at the bottom of my MacBook Pro screen and compose a few words before returning to my mail, my blog stats, Twitter, the New York Times.

But ah the evening! After a day of disappointing myself with how little I’ve produced, I can finally look forward to the sense of accomplishment I crave. I turn on the news and face a pile of bills. It soothes me to hear pundits drone about this candidate that President, while I tend to the soothing task of typing numbers. After an hour my reward is a reduced pile of papers on the coffee table.

If, however, I tune into “Smash” or “Survivor” or “The Daily Show,” I get through perhaps one envelope every 20 minutes, the way I used to stare at my day planner, a Filofax wannabe, and get nothing done. Sometimes my online banking times out. After an hour, I ask myself, “Why don’t I just watch TV and not pretend I’m getting things done?”

I answer myself, “I’m too restless to just sit still and watch.” (an aside, Grammar Girl at says it’s okay to break the misguided rule about not splitting infinitives.)

Sometimes I allow the same news hour to loop twice. Then I look at the clock and it’s midnight. If I race upstairs right then, I can be in bed by one, and at exactly this moment I realize I haven’t yet walked the dog. And I’m hungry again.

Oh, and I haven’t made my to-do list for tomorrow, which is actually today. I pull out a new piece of scrap paper and write the things I didn’t complete today as well as the usual: paperwork, email, file, organize house.

Before anything else, though, now that it’s this late, I become a whirling dervish to get more things done. I raise the TV volume then race to my office to file paid bills in manilla folders. I then distribute around the house the day’s accumulation on the dining room table. I go through my mental bedtime checklist: lock porch doors, take vitamins, fill water bottle, adjust thermostat.

I walk Casey, plop some chicken livers into a small pot and place a piece of bread in the toaster. When I finish eating, it’s after 1 a.m. I limp upstairs because of my bad knee that I really ought to have someone look at.

When I get upstairs, I’ll write on my iCal to get a doctor’s appointment, if I remember this by the time I get to my room. If it were urgent, I’d keep repeating, “knee, knee, knee . . .” till I noted it. But if I forget it in the next 60 seconds, tomorrow I’ll have the same thought.

I run the bath and realize I haven’t stretched. So I scurry to finish my squats and leg raises before the tub overflows. I put my floss and face cream on the tub ledge, so I can perform these nightly events while soaking. Even while bathing I am driven to double task.

I just realized I can save a few seconds by leaving the floss permanently on the tub ledge, which I shall do starting tonight.

After I climb into bed, Casey and I adjust ourselves to the perfect cozy position with his chin on my thigh. At once, I remember that I forgot to charge my phone. Now that I’m upright with phone in hand, it’s hard not to play one last round of Words With Friends.

I might as well pee again in the hope that this will be one of the rare nights I don’t interrupt my slumber to empty my bladder. Casey and I readjust, but it’s never quite as good as it was a few minutes earlier when we first settled in.

I read for seven minutes, not that I’m counting, but that is always how long it takes till my eyelids droop, maybe because I once read that it’s a good sign if you fall asleep within seven minutes. I check the time, 2:14, and set my mental alarm for at least eight hours from now. I close my eyes and imagine myself awakening at 10:14, excited by the prospect of doing a better job of writing. But I’m more excited for the evening, when I can count on myself to get things done.


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