The Perfect ‘to-do’ List

Many hardworking young people are keen about on making the best use of their time. Their daily to-do list – the action plan for each day – mostly involves learning new things, going through a stream of inspiring information, and occasionally spending some time on checking out the movies or books known to be the best. Despite all this heavy work for making each minute productive, we can still come across a writer’s block or a general inertia in coming up with a fresh new idea. There are a number of eternal questions popping up in our minds at frequent intervals: Why have I been unable to write an interesting article in my blog for so long? Why do vacations get unproductive soon if spent entirely at home? Why is my creativity apparently going down despite the amount of reading I do?

The answers to these questions have more to them than subtle time management and priority setting in our daily life. This can be tracked down to a fundamental error in our planning. So what is the key to making that perfect to-do list that keeps us constantly alive and fresh? Here is a practical answer: We need to note down some ‘free time’ in our daily to-do list. Yes, exactly without a purpose – just a chunk of so called sloppy time ‘scheduled’ in your busy day. It is wonderful how this scheduled free time can bring fresh new ideas in our head.

Speaking of fresh ideas, a whole bunch of people might agree how magically a shower works in this regard. From the ancient time when Archimedes screamed the Y word from his bathtub, to this day people get sparks of ideas under their showers. For some, a shower might extend to a whole length of thinking process. For example, in almost all the cases, I can only remember up to a few seconds after opening the shower. Then I get carried away in thoughts. When consciousness is regained, I wouldn’t have the slightest hint as to how much time has passed by. In many cases, I can’t remember whether I have touched the soap yet, and will have to do everything all over again. Worse, sometimes I can’t remember how many times I have been repeating.

Looking deeply at the subject, what we get under the shower is a few minutes of isolation, calmness, and a total lack of any external interruption. The funny thing is, this is mostly how far we get such a serene environment in these days of advanced technology and information overload. You might as well take more showers and get over your creative block. Same goes with an afternoon nap. Same with a few minutes that you will allocate in your day, labelled with no specific task.

Even though a to-do list is a symbol of great planning – something which makes each minute of the day constructive – a perfect to-do list should contain a certain amount of scheduled ‘sloppiness’, so to speak. Especially in the modern world – overwhelmed with information overload, always projecting more and more things to learn at us – where wasting a few hours doing nothing can appear like a big loss for people who dream big.

A lesser known quote by Albert Einstein goes like this: “Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking”. This sheds a few rays of new light on our questions about the perfect to-do list.

What we miss in our run to fill every minute gobbling up as much of information or finishing up the best of movies and books with much effort, is our spontaneity. It is what some people partially get a glimpse of in their showers. In the present world, when we’re eager to make sure any minute is not wasted, we really got to write down empty blocks of time in our to-do list. Let yourself be clueless at that time, let yourself sit and look out of the window, but don’t try to think of pending works to fill that time with.

You can gain information at will; we have all technology for that. But when shall it get processed to something entirely original, is spontaneous. And this probably wouldn’t happen so much if we’re trying to push more and more spontaneity out of the way. What we need to stop is using our brain as a mere data store; we have hard disks for that. Spend more time on processing the information, and creating something out of it. Like any machine, when constantly used, the creative parts of brain won’t shutdown on you when you need an idea for a new blog post or just some nice words to write on a birthday card.

Rahul Anand

The author is a lover of art – whether it is in nature or in a computer. Or it is a cat (yes, cats are beautiful creatures). A blogger, designer, and programmer, he also publishes a webcomic at For him, the next best thing to creating stuff is learning stuff, everything from cooking to the French language. The only other thing which he can think of that compares to the fun is bicycling alone and free on wide open roads. Just so you may know, he is also a Computer Science engineer.