To Do or Not to Do

July 17, 2023 at 12:25

I started using a to-do list to manage my brain externally a few weeks ago.

I’m using Trello for this, and I’d probably be very upset if Trello went away or (more likely) started charging for the features that I’m using. I suspect if this happens, I’ll have to look into a roll-your-own type solution that can live on my Raspberry Pi.

Here’s the thing, though; to-do lists are boring and stultifying and when set up as a task board like what you might see on Jira or Trello in, you know, a corporate environment, they look a lot like work and


It turns out that running a household is a lot of work.

Key word here: “Work”. The reason the task board looks like something I might have at my job is because, no less than at my job, I need the help to stay in line and keep myself sighted in on tasks I have to do next.

So, yeah. There’s a to-do list running my brain now and, uh. Guys. Gals. Assorted internet pals. It’s pretty amazing in a low-key way.

Yes, yes, I get excited over the world’s most boring things, this is a known aspect of my personality. Yes, I’m happy to tell you I just spent the first half of my lunch break folding laundry instead of following the traditional route of “the clean clothes are in the white basket and the dirty clothes are in the green one until we switch colours next time we do laundry”.

But like… just by putting a card that says “Deal with Laundry” on the to-do list, I feel like I’ve started the task. There’s progress there. And having that card on the column I’ve helpfully labelled “Sean’s Day” is a reminder, when my brain is saccading between tasks, that this is a viable, good, and intelligent destination for my attention. And if that list is empty? There’s another list, “This week”. I can pull things across and load them up for today- or I can just do them right out of the week.

Stuff is sorted in Rough Priority Order, which is to say “I should probably work on cleaning the garage before I spend time trying out the toaster oven we were given by my parents, and both of these things should probably happen before I install the speakers in the basement ceiling”.

I’ve even got automation set up so that if something is supposed to happen on a regular basis, when I complete it, it gets cloned into the column “Finished This Week” and the original gets bounced back into the “coming up later” columns, with appropriate adjustment of due dates (Check the furnace filter? Once a quarter. Lift some weights? Every other day…)

One thing of which I am particularly proud is this: Items that are completed move to a column called, as noted above, “Finished This Week”. They live there until Sunday at 1 AM, upon which time they are archived off the list.

It’s nice, though, to be able to see things I got done this week. It’s nice when my anxieties start chanting about my worthlessness to be able to point to a list and say “No. Look- LOOK at all the things you did this week. JUST THIS WEEK you did all these things.”

Similarly, my ambition doesn’t lead me into taking on too much stuff at once and burning myself out, because I can go “Oh, hey, there’s a lot already in This Week and maybe we’ll back off, yeah?”

And I don’t even find myself spinning up new projects as much, because there’s already quite a lot in the columns for “Do This Eventually” and “Waiting on Other Tasks” (I lie, that one’s just labelled “Blocked” because I’m lazy).

This post brought to you by the Most Boring Man on Earth, who just spent half his lunch folding laundry and the other half writing a blog post. About a to-do list.

But hey, now I can put a check mark next to the “Laundry” card and watch it file itself into the “Finished This Week” column. Even being boring, that’s a nice dopamine hit.

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