Doing It Now! (Tap to snooze)

Somewhere in the house is a book with a very jazzy cover – bright yellow and black stripes as I recall. Big, bold red letters that declare: “Doing It Now!” It is quite possible that the title has more than one exclamation mark. Such fevered punctuation indicates an enthusiasm that can only be admired. I think this book may have been purchased while I was a member of a book club. Do people join book clubs now? Surely they just have the digitised version fed into their brain while they are asleep. The book club would, each month, send you a brochure with a selection of titles. One of these was the book of the month. And this would be sent to you automatically unless you returned a form with an X against this title, thus indicating that thanks but no thanks, you didn’t want this one. I am fairly sure that this strategy was designed so that people would forget to send back their form with the X and thus books would be sent out to people who didn’t really want them. Ah, the inventiveness of capitalism.

I cannot recall if this book was book of the month. It may have been and I may have forgotten to return my form with an X. Or, I may have decided this would be a good book to own. I can’t remember because this book was purchased sometime during the 1970s. The whole purpose of the book was to inspire people not to put things off. And you will, of course, not be at all surprised when I tell you I still haven’t read it.

Each time I move house, I come across this book. Each time I almost turf it out. And each time I think that maybe, just maybe, this will be the year that I read it.

I am a man who loves To Do lists. Perhaps “love” is too strong a word. I have them and they occasionally annoy and provoke and irritate – oh, maybe “love” is the right word. I have a To Do list at work. It has things that have literally been on there for years. I am determined that, at some time, one day, I am going to get the opportunity to complete all the things on my To Do list. I believe this even though evidence is to the contrary.

I have another To Do list for things at home. Again, this is a somewhat ancient list but each time I review it, determined to trim at least one task from it, I think “Well, actually, I do need to do that sometime”. Sometime.

I wonder occasionally, what it would be like to throw away the To Do list. Rather like the person who spends and spends on their credit card might casually imagine what it would be like to take a pair of scissors to their card. What freedom there would be. What a release. But then… the doubts, the regrets. This is all mere conjecture. Neither the elation of its departure nor the regret of its demise awaits me because the To Do lists – work and home – are here to stay.

My To Do list used to be written on a piece of paper and kept in my pocket. It would weather and crumple and start to fall apart at the folds. And then I would carefully copy it out onto a fresh, new piece of paper. That felt good because it was as if it was a new To Do list. One full of hope and possibility, one with a chance that every single item could, one day, be crossed off. Now my To Do lists are electronic of course. Which means they can tell me when they haven’t been done. They can prompt me, they can cajole me.

If a reminder appears and I am feeling in control, that my To Do list is not actually my master, I just click “Ok”. I refuse to be commanded by a list, albeit a list of my own making. But sometimes, I am not so brave. Sometimes I think I really should do this thing and I hit “Tap to snooze”. It then sleeps – a peaceful and undisturbed sleep I am sure – until it is time to remind me yet again of That Thing That Needs Doing. I may snooze it again. I may hit “Ok” and grudgingly, very grudgingly, actually consider doing the task.

I think my problem is that the tasks I set myself are so mind-boggling tedious (“Renew car insurance” or “Pay credit card bill”) that the whole process takes on a grim and heavy tone. These things need to be done but they’re not exactly a pleasure to carry out. What I need are some new tasks which I would actually like to appear on my phone. Tasks that bring pleasure. Let’s see… How about…

  1. Eat a chocolate cookie
  2. Buy a gadget (the less useful and practical, the better)
  3. Build a rocket backpack

I’m struggling now to find any more. The whole idea of a To Do list being composed of things I would actually look forward to doing is an alien concept. Or perhaps it’s more fundamental than that. Perhaps I’m just not very good at enjoying myself. It’s tricky putting together a list of enjoyable things when one’s capacity for enjoyment is restricted by one’s brain. Oh my, that sounds a might depressing.

I wonder how many books like “Doing It Now!” I have read over the years. Those positive, inspiring, self-help books that always contain lists: “10 Ways To Create A Creative Mind”; “7 Ways To A Better Understanding Of Yourself”; “19 Ways To Reduce That Tummy!”. They are always full of useful exercises – in the case of tummy-reduction that would be physical exercise but for the most part these are exercises where you are required to think and reflect. I usually do the first few but I am soon skipping them. The problem with self-help books is that they are relying on me to do the work.

You may have seen the film The Matrix. At one point our hero is plugged into a machine and zammo he instantly learns fighting techniques. Now that’s a much better system than all these self-help books. Just program what you want and blat it into your brain. Come on you scientists of the world, why haven’t you invented this yet? I am still waiting for the flying cars you promised would be here in the 21st century. Get yourselves together and do something useful. As I am still in a List kind of mood, I will set down my requirements for stuff I would like to be zapped into my brain:

  1. Enthusiasm
  2. Capacity for enjoyment
  3. Whatever the opposite of “constantly going over things from the past” is
  4. Whatever the opposite of “constantly worrying about the future” is
  5. Drive
  6. Decisiveness
  7. Ability to design and build a rocket backpack

It is entirely wrong to want things this way. It would be far too easy. Things must be earnt. Even though my spellchecker says there is no such word.

All of which means that “Finish all the things on my To Do list” is going on my To Do list.

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