Getting It All Done: Your Master To-Do List

things to do

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For the entire month of August, I worked 14-hour days: I blogged, did essay rewrites, researched and interviewed up a storm for several story assignments, and proofread direct mail copy.

The only thing missing was the self-marketing, which is why — as I finish up a ton of projects — I have nothing new on the horizon (nothing concrete, anyway).

No matter how much talent you have, you won’t succeed without a business-side sensibility. So. How can I get it all done? After the jump, the way my days should run:

7:30 a.m.: I wake up effortlessly with the rising sun and, straight off, brush my teeth, feed the cats, and shower. I put on an outfit that is comfortable yet still appropriate for any surprise visits from the UPS Man. Then, I dive into my daily blogging for, with a bowl of cereal and a glass of orange juice at my side. This is the work with the most immediate deadline, so I like to get it out of the way. Afterwards, I throw up a Freelancedom post that manages to be both groundbreaking and typo-free.  I finish by 10 a.m.

What actually happens: My eyes open with the rising sun, and I consider getting out of bed. This proves too daunting, and so I linger for an additional 30-60 minutes.  Finally, I get my ass out of bed, brush my teeth, and feed the cats. There’s no time for a shower, because I need to quickly throw some blog posts up. Unfortunately, I have no idea what to blog about, so I spend about an hour reading new e-mails, scanning through my Google Reader, and catching up on my Twitter feed. When this fails to yield any post ideas, I play around with StumbleUpon. A pot of coffee gets me through the morning and, if I’m lucky, I shower by noon.

10 a.m.: I scan through the to-do list I wrote up the night before and give myself blocks of time to complete several tasks for each project. I break at noon to fix myself a sandwich, and then take a half hour walk through the neighborhood. The fresh air and natural light rejuvenate me for the coming afternoon.

What actually happens: It’s noon and — fingers crossed — I’m done with my daily blogging. Lunch time! I heat up a microwave meal and eat it in front of the TV. I have Project Runway and So You Think You Can Dance DVRd, and I’m eager to find out what happened with my favorite contestants.  If I’ve already gone through my DVRd programs, I watch HGTV. This makes me want to shop and/or redecorate, so I spend some additional time looking at kitchen islands and country-style desks online.

1 p.m.: It’s time to drum up some new work. I open an excel spreadsheet that contains all of my story ideas, in addition to the publications I’m considering pitching them to. I knock out a bunch of new pitches, or devote some time to a personal essay. After a couple of hours, I switch gears and get to work on the ebook I’ve been developing. I’ve recently decided that I should develop a book proposal first, and see if an agent is interested. I want to get the proposal out by the end of the month. I wrap things up at 5, so that I can get started on dinner.

What actually happens: It’s time to get to work on all of the writing, researching, interviewing, etc. that I didn’t get to before lunch. This manages to take up the rest of the day and, when my husband rolls in at about 6 p.m., I’ve neither sent out any new pitches nor started on dinner. I’m also frustrated that — once again — I’ve had no time to work on my ebook.

8 p.m.: We’ve eaten dinner together, caught up on both our days and our DVRd shows, and are eager to get in a couple more hours of work before hitting the sack. While Michael pulls up to his desk to work on some freelance web development projects, I retreat to the bedroom with my laptop, where I make headway on my career coaching certification program. At 10 p.m. (shut up; I’m old), I turn off the lights and get a good night’s sleep.

What actually happens: We’ve eaten dinner together, caught up on both our days and our DVRd shows, and…have lost all forward momentum. We pop in the latest disc from Netflix and veg out for the rest of the evening. We eventually crawl into bed at about 11 p.m. He falls asleep immediately (I can hear him snoring), but I toss and turn for hours, thinking about all of the work I didn’t get done.

So, basically? Break your days up into blocks of time dedicated to urgent work, ongoing projects, self-marketing, and future plans. And be sure to save some time for food, fresh air, and loved ones. Easy, right?


Related: Resource Roundup: 4 Time Management Applications


  1. I know this all too well when I am freelancing. Scheduling blocks of time seems to make more sense, as long as you allow yourself some scheduled breaks where you *can* watch those design shows and shop online, then get back to work. It’s always easier said than done, though…

  2. @margie: I experimented with scheduling out blocks of time, and it worked so. beautifully. I don’t know what happened. Actually, I do know. It all hinges upon the ups and downs of your self-motivation and energy levels. It’s crazy how much a dismal day can adversely affect my productivity levels.

  3. Great post and, sadly, sometimes “what actually happens” is too close to my own life!


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