A Not-To-Do List

Today is the day you start your project.

Wake up. Make your coffee. Sit down. Get to work.

Now, it should be that simple. Wake up and get to work.

But there are many distractions. Mental and otherwise.

So this is NOT a to-do list. This is a not-to-do list. You don’t need to check anything off, because these are things YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO DO.

Do not check your email.
Do not go to nytimes.com.
Do not decide to organize your cd rack.
Do not turn on the television.
Do not clip your nails.
Do not stare at your bald spot in the mirror and begin to calculate how much time your hair has left.
Do not start catching up on the DVDs that have arrived from Netflix.
Do not update your Netflix queue.
Do not Google all your Exes.
Do not Google yourself.
Do not dust the house.
Do not sweep the floors.
Do not take out the trash.
Do not get sucked into the argument when your significant other starts screaming about the fact that you drank the last of the milk and even though you said you would get more you didn’t. Just apologize, apologize, and then apologize again. (But don’t be tempted to apologize "for being such a horrible person" – that is a sign that you are getting drawn into a bigger dust-up. Stay on target with your apology, explain that you have serious work to do, and get back to your project.)
Do not decide to make yourself an elaborate lunch.
Do not take a nap.
Do not change the cat litter.
Do not decide to figure out the calorie count of your recent meals.
Do not pay your bills.
Do not balance your checkbook.
Do not freak out that you have no money.
Do not go into the bathroom and give your Academy Award acceptance speech.
Do not put on Prince and party like it’s 1999. (Well, okay, maybe ONCE, just to get you fired up about your project.)
Do not start going through your closet.
Do not decide to floss.
Do not organize your spice rack.
Do not update your address book.
Do not make a list of things to do.
Do not watch Oprah.
Do not listen to NPR.
Do not start to think you don’t have what it takes to actually do your project.
Do not read any further on this post – caught you! Stop reading now and get to work on your project.
Do not check what time the movie is playing later.
Do not decide to send an angry email to that annoying friend who recently pissed you off.
Do not play with the cats.
Do not clip your nose hairs.
Do not start trying to organize a dinner party.
Do not start wondering if that mole that seems a little bigger than the last time you checked it might be skin cancer.
Do not start going through all the papers on your desk.
Do not make a list of all the things you have to get done at work.
Do not start thinking you are never going to finish.
Do not make a quick run to the grocery store.
Do not search for gray hairs.
Do not start fantasizing about sex.
Do not decide to make a call to your significant other to tell him or her that you don’t think you’ve been getting any, and that you better damn well get some tonight (you know, because that one works every time).
Do not go to IMDB to see who that actor was in that movie you saw the other night. Or what that girl from that show from way back when is doing now.
Do not start perusing your own bookshelves.
Do not organize your computer files.
Do not clean out your inbox.
Do not click into the online gossip sites.
Do not pick your nose.
Do not start reading old letters from old flames.
Do not crack open a beer.
Do not pluck your eyebrows.
Do not to give yourself a facial.
Do not start going through your photos.
Do not return your phone calls.
Do not start reading your old journal entries.
Do not start thinking about how your project is lame.
Do not scrub the tub.
Do not clean the toilet.
Do not open a bottle of wine.
Do not start wading through all the magazines you subscribe to but never read.
Do not decide to start a screenplay (unless, of course, that is your project).
Do not post to your blog.
Do not pull the ATM receipts out of your wallet and start entering withdrawals into your checkbook.
Do not get up and keep getting yourself a glass of water.
Do not refill the ice trays.
Do not do the dishes.
Do not start picking off the wax on your candle holders.
Do not start worrying about all the time you’ve already wasted.

There are a million more things that could be on this list, but remember, it’s not a to-do list, so it doesn’t matter if something is missing — you are NOT supposed to be doing these things. Just get to work on your project.

–Jeffrey Yamaguchi

71 thoughts on “A Not-To-Do List

  1. That’s brilliant. I think I’ve already been through about five things on that list this morning. I’ll have to keep it next to my desk to remind me NOT to do any of these things when I’m trying to work!

  2. guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty

  3. “Do not click on the live bookmark for del.icio.us/popular on your Firefox “Bookmarks Toolbar Folder”.
    Already feeling guilty for how I got here. Nice. :-|
    Great post!

  4. All excellent additions to the list! I was going to add “Do not post comments” but I see that one was already posted… So I will add “Do not reply to posted comments” and “Do not keep checking the comments on the weblog posts you weren’t supposed to be posting in the first place.”

  5. If you’re red-handed when you’re picking your nose then its definitely time to stop – and possibly seek medical help

  6. I chuckled to myself as I read “Do not Google yourself” and “Do not take a nap” – I’m so guilty of those! hahahaa! List is good to print :)

  7. Actually, I’d think changing the kitty litter would be a good idea. I mean, it’s not like there’s any point to doing it more than once a day, so it won’t take up *that* much of your time.

  8. Reminds me of:
    ” Sinclair Lewis was invited to talk to some students about the writer’s craft. He stood at the head of the class and asked, “How many of you here are really serious about being writers?” A sea of hands shot up. Lewis then asked, “Well, why aren’t you all home writing?” And with that he walked out of the room.”
    – “How to Write a Novel in 100 Days or Less” http://www.peacecorpswriters.org/pages/depts/resources/resour_writers/100daysbook/bk100da.html

  9. The point is because we are reading this, we are all possibly guilty of most of the items on the list. good stuff. now I should get back to my project which is becoming extremely urgent now! Shit… I have been distracted for 3/5 hrs …..f&&&

  10. I Google myself on a regular basis to see if I’ve done anything amazing lately. Usually I haven’t. But there’s an opera singer out there with my name who’s putting me to shame.

  11. Do not disobey the corporation…do not rob the corporation of money by wasting productivity time…focus on task…buy more products….there’s a good consumer

  12. wow, this is my life, especally on weekends! I’m printing this out now, plan on making several copies and posting it in several rooms in the house, especally in the bathroom on the mirror where tweezing my eyebrows is my biggest time waster!

  13. Do not google “undulant fever” just to see if anything has changed since you did it last.
    How have I missed this before? Arthur, why did you name your ‘zine Undulant Fever back in the ’70s?

  14. DO NOT LIST DO-AHEADS
    Okay, my project is a screenplay, a sci-fi one at that and I have to do a lot of resaerch to make sure my science is as plausible or factual as possible. So here’s my Do Not: Do Not put off tonight getting the research you need for tomorrow when you hit the ground running!
    Do not forget to prep the coffee maker the night before.
    Do not forget that “project day” is no different than going to a day at the office. Do not forget to set your alarm and do not be late getting to your desk.
    If you smoke, do not forget to get plenty of cigarettes the night before.
    And as far as those beer/wine rules, personally, after five o’clock, I work better and more creatively with a slow intake of martinis.
    Happy project, folks!

  15. DO NOT DO-AHEADS ADDENDUM:
    DO NOT CONFUSE YOUT HAND AT THE TASK WITH THE TASK AT HAND. About the “Do Not put off tonight getting the research you need for tomorrow when you hit the ground running!”
    The reason for this rule is probably obvious to those of you who collect project relevant info, but I’ll state it plain and simply. Internet research is a exponential black hole of time. Even if you start working at 7AM, you might not surface until 2PM. This falls under the “Do not distract yourself from the project” clause.

  16. DO NOT check your feedburner circulation.
    DO NOT check your total worth or blog valuation/price on Blogshares.
    DO NOT run to the vending machines to get a snack.
    DO NOT open your feed aggregator/instant messenger software/email program or anything else that gives you instant notifications about things going on out there on the web.
    Of course, if you’re like me, and don’t have a project to work on (but are required to be at your desk anyhow), please feel free to remove the NOT from those…

  17. Phew! Not only am I guilty of way too many items on the list, but just reading them and the comments have made me so-o-o sleepy that I’m now too tired to attempt to procrastinate, let alone work!

  18. To 52 Projects Man,
    My son (Mr. Big Shot artiste!) never does anything except what he calls “his project”. Somebody else told me it’s art. I don’t know what to call it. Anyways, I’m writing his comments for him since he DID NOT check the list. Neither did he actually make any comment hisself. It’s like I said, Mr. Big Shot is too busy doing his own project. Can you send somebody around, please, to take out the trash? (His father is always doing some kind of project too, so nothing ever gets done around here).
    – Mr. Big Shot’s Mama

  19. As a college student who loves to procrastinate, I have printed out this list and posted it on the wall above my desk in my dorm room. Thank you! Though half of these things don’t apply to me, they do serve to remind me of those other things that I shouldn’t be doing. I love it!

  20. my paints are drying as i click, if i print this out, maybe it will stick. or maybe i’ll add it to my next mixed media piece. har har.

  21. I was not googling myself! Okay, I was. How did you know?!?
    Sigh. That was such a nice essay, I can’t wait for a weekend to try it out.

  22. Do not copy this list, paste into a Word file, reformat it, print it out, and paste it on your bulletin board so it can continue to keep you from your project.

  23. Do not read every single comment and try to think of something else to add to the ‘Do not…’ list.

  24. Do not surf porn.
    Do not line up your torrents while you do your project.
    Do not use the computer at all (but I guess your project is on the computer so scratch this idea :)

  25. Wow… you SAW what I did all week didn’t you ?? This is wicked, and so, so, so, true !!!!

  26. DO NOT read the entire list, all the comments and then think up an intresting comment to post.

  27. whoever genius wrote this….. get back to YOUR project!!!!! lol
    this is an absolutly amazing not-to-do list i love it

  28. This is hillarious because it’s too autobiographical of my life. I found you from my good friend Mike over at port16.com who included you in a revue. Very glad to have stumbled upon your excellent blog. I’ll be back.

  29. There are many things that you should not do when you are working on a project or studying. The only thing you should do is focus on your project so you will do well. Staying focused on your work is the best thing to do. It is hard for most people because our minds are constantly processing information throughout our day. Stay focused and try hard!

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