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My To-Do List


Every night, I write up a to-do list for the following day, to make sure I don’t forget important appointments or tasks that need to get done. There was a time when I had to put get dressed and brush teeth on the list, just to give me something to successfully check off, but my lists have grown since then, and most days I find that I’ve only gotten halfway through the list before the day is over. This has gotten worse since I finished graduate school, in December, and found myself with some “free” time before I’m allowed to take the social work licensing exam.

Without Schoolwork at the top of my to-do list, a lot of other projects have cropped up and they all seem equally important to me. Of course, studying for the licensing exam is on my list every day, as is read books which refers to my hefty pile of self-required reading that I mentioned in a previous post. I also put practice ukulele, freewrite and revise, and bike and shower on the list every day (the last refers to time spent on my stationary bike and the shower I have to force myself to take in the aftermath. I take showers every day, don’t worry, but some part of my brain needs to be given credit for making the effort).

I also add tasks that I need to do on a particular day, like researching for a new writing project, or making a food shopping list, or doing the laundry, or setting the DVR for the week, both because I know that I would forget otherwise, and because of the satisfaction I feel when I can cross off a task as finished.


“Make sure our scratchy time is on the list.”

I almost never put language apps on my list, even though I end up spending at least an hour a day on Duolingo and Tinycards and Drops. I should be fluent in French, German, Spanish and Hebrew by now, given the amount of time I spend glued to that little screen, but alas, I am not. I also don’t put watch TV or check social media on my list, because it would be wrong to give myself credit for fueling my addictions. And napping. I can’t put napping on the list, because that would be cheating.


“Napping is important work, Mommy.”

When I have to put go to work back on my to-do list, a lot of my other tasks will end up falling by the wayside, and that worries me. For the first time in three and a half years I feel like myself again, even with all of my random thoughts and interests pulling me in every different direction. It’s not the most productive way to live, but it feels more like me, and it allows more parts of me to get the attention they crave. But work will change things.

The dogs will always be priorities, and basic tasks of living (AKA showers), but music and reading lists, and multiple writing projects, I’m not sure they will get the attention they need when something as big as Work gets in the way. And I’m not sure how to prevent that from happening.

People pooh pooh it when I say I’m worried, and tell me that I’ll have plenty of time for everything I want to do, and of course work is the most important thing, and isn’t it cute that you write books as a hobby, and so on. But I know myself. Even if I’m only working part time, it will take most of my energy to make that happen. I will have “free” time, but I’ll need to spend it recovering and resting, not challenging myself with different projects that mean something to me. I want to have faith that work will add to my life, add to my satisfaction and my life experience and my confidence and give me more freedom (because: money). But I’m afraid it will take things away from me instead: autonomy, time, energy, hope.

And the dogs really don’t appreciate this idea of work as something to be done away from home. What will happen to their treats and extra walks and snuggle time? And the separation anxiety will exhaust all of us. But mostly me. In the meantime, I follow my to-do lists, and try to function the best I can, and wring as much as possible out of my day, and hope that there will always be room on my to-do list of the things I love.


“We’re on the list, right?”

If you haven’t yet had a chance, please check out my Amazon page and consider ordering the Kindle or Paperback version (or both!) of Yeshiva Girl. And if you feel like writing review of the book, on Amazon or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

yeshiva girl with dogs

Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish girl on Long Island named Izzy (short for Isabel). Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes that it’s true. Izzy’s father decides to send her to an Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, as if she’s the one who needs to be fixed. Izzy, in pain, smart, funny, and looking for people she can trust, finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment.


About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

72 responses »

  1. Enjoy your “down time” and spoil the pups. Someday, you will be a full-time writer. Obviously not just a hobby. When i have more “down time”, I will finish reading your already captivating novel. Such an amazing accomplishment. How is your Mom? Haven’t heard much about “Grandma” lately?
    SB (+Ginger, Winston and Zoe)

  2. I hope that the satisfaction that will come from finding meaningful work in your field will give you a sense of accomplishment differ from but parallel to your life right now. You are right that it will be very different. I had the opposite challenge when retiring after many years of work. I find that both lives are good.

  3. Prioritizing can be hard work all by itself 😳

  4. Girl, you do you. There is no best system. I’m much more productive when I make my lists and when I keep working towards them. I don’t have all of your issues to consider either. So, my only advice to you is, schedule your rest and recovery time in ink. It is important too. If writing something new gives you energy, add it. If it will drain you (and some days it will), consider something else or schedule some rest and recovery time. I’ve learned to work with how I work…and about every forty-five minutes, I need to do something else, no matter what I was doing. (and some days, I need to schedule in that shower as well or think maybe I should), but once I take my rest-recovery breaks, I can focus on the hard stuff again. It’s just tough getting there sometimes. Keep up the good work. And I have to say hi to and thank a friend for the library check out card list pad. I may soon order a case to have them available. Your lists should be as fun as your projects;-).

  5. I’ve started writing my lists on Sunday for the entire week – then I kind of know what day will be really crazy full, and which day I have more time for me. I also write the same things down every day – Maverick’s glucosamine, hubby’s inhalers, training sessions, because I also enjoy the feeling of accomplishment I get crossing them off. I have to soon add “create new course” and I’m feeling the same things as you are – what do I have to give less time to in order to accomplish this? It’s probably what’s keeping me from starting even though I know it needs to be done by September.

  6. I want to commend you on your consistency with your blog. I love hearing how you are doing and your work is fun and engaging. I especially loved this piece on to-do’s! I can resonate with so much of what you shared.

  7. I am a list-writer, so I know the satisfaction of crossing something off–oh, the joy from doing that! But I make lists at night for things I want to do at work, too, so the ‘joy’ doesn’t stop. You will get things figured out with work, Rachel. Priorities shift and all of a sudden all the ‘have to’s’ reorganize so you still have that sense of accomplishment by crossing them off the list. Of course, the pups always come first!

  8. Another piece I enjoyed reading. I agree with Anika. Brava for your consistency in doing the blog in the midst of the weight of so many other to-dos. That in itself represents a very big to-do. And BTW, I love the doggie pics in today’s blog.

  9. I was intrigued – not only by your topic – but by the ingenious way you stretched it into a loooong post! In my daily routine, I wake, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, unplug and pocket my cell phone, go out to the kitchen, make a cup of coffee, and go up to my sanctuary (a 12’x12’ room up a circle staircase above my entryway). There I spend my first hour most days. None of the prior tasks gets on my ToDo List. But, with thoughtful anticipation, prayer, and meditation, before I walk back down those stairs and start the
    busy part of my day, my list is generated. I’ve even been known to add “Shower” to the list! So, I got a kick out of this post if yours. Never thought to add “Feed TazE” to my list. Do you think my dog feels slighted?

  10. This sounds just like me. I have made to-do lists since forever. Sometimes I don’t and I actually forgot a dentist appointment recently lol. I can even relate to feeling like work takes so much energy and time. And I want to stay home with my cats instead.

  11. Yes the dreaded to do list. Mine just keeps getting longer. It stretches over more than one page now. Hope is that I might misplace one of the sheets soon. Wonderful dog pics

  12. I still keep a written list, ( evennthough I’m made fun of in this digital age) it sits on the fridge I see it every morning before coffee! Great post Rachel! Babies looking good!❤️

  13. Rachel, don’t worry, you’ll manage just fine. Look what you’ve already achieved! I too love making to do lists it keeps my thoughts ordered and ensures I don’t forget anything. Plus, it’s so satisfying ticking things off the list when they’re done.

  14. I’m tired now after reading about your to do lists.. lol. you are amazing and I feel like a slug.. good night..

  15. Reblogged this on Ann Writes Inspiration and commented:
    I have an echo dot, so I ask Alexa to keep a to do list, an ideas list and a notes list, among other things.

  16. I hope that you will still find time to do those things you enjoy,once work becomes a normal part of your life. Best wishes!

  17. I no longer write lists for myself, except for the hand-written shopping list every week. I used to do that, but felt like a failure when nothing was crossed off. So, no list=no bad feelings. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  18. The couple of times I have transitioned from one thing to another–like from not having a job to having a job, I was *super* tired those first couple of weeks. There’s so much to learn–not so much the job itself but who all the people are, getting to know a lot of new people, coming up with new routines so you get out the door on time with your lunch or know where to get lunch, and figuring out how to get there. I had a job where it was easier to take the bus and a lot cheaper. I learned how to use the time going home to just focus on relaxing and unwinding. Even thinking about the best place to sit, etc.

    Once all the new routines are in place, it’s a lot easier, you feel more competent, and you feel great about yourself! So, you can help yourself by planning ahead for those first couple of weeks, and plan ways to take care of yourself.

    You know that you can do it and be successful! It’ll be a great time in your life–being able to share your insights and help folks.

  19. Again nice article Rachael. I too write my list but can stick to it for only 2 days 😂

  20. I too am a compulsive list maker and gain satisfaction from crossing off items on their completion. Glad you are enjoying a mental break following your coursework. Wishing you all success on your licensing exam.

  21. I have recently started doing the “Just Be” meditation from Meditation Oasis. It has made me no less productive and has not stopped me from making lists, but it has given me some relief from the incessant feeling that I am “worthless” if I am not busy doing something “productive” or “creative”.

    From their captions, I see that your dogs are very wise. Listen to them! <3, ((()))

  22. Work is something that you may have to do, but maybe do away with your to do lists and enjoy what happens on its own. Sometimes the unexpected is quite satisfying even if the bed doesn’t get made!

  23. I still have to put shower, get dressed and brush teeth on my list🤔

  24. When I was out of a job for 3 months last fall, my days strangely became filled with other pursuits. How did I ever have time to clean the house or read a book or watch Netflix or read the blogs I love or even create a blog before, when I was working? That’s what I ended up asking myself. Now, I’m back to work at 25 hours a week, and I suddenly “have no time.” I have had to choose what’s most important to me (not housework) and make the time to do it. I am sure you will do the same, and eventually some of the other things will seems less important. BTW, I am a firm believer in lists, too!

  25. I put “make dinner” on my list every day. Like you, my mind needs some credit for that much work. 🙂 Blessings on finding work that really will enhance your life. God is able.

  26. Lists are my favourite things ever. Love crossing off the completed task every day Rachel. Love your little furry babies too.

  27. I love the satisfaction of crossing off tasks on to-do lists too, though lately I’m not even getting half way through mine each day. I also set the DVR early to record for the week (typically do this on a Sunday) so I don’t forget! And napping should go on the list, it’s important and should come under ‘self-care’ 😉 I can see where you’re coming from with the work side of things, that taking up all energy and time would be a concern for me too. I guess it’s just a case of trying it, seeing what happens, and sticking to your priorities. They need to work around work, rather than the other way around. There are always other ways to manage things, changes that can be made, try not to worry too much just yet about it. You’ll find ways to make it work for you 🙂
    Caz xx

  28. Love your blog and your writing. Thank you. Jules “Just Jules in the kitchen”

    Sent from my iPhone


  29. Do you qualify your lists or are they simply things to be done? The reason I ask is that my lists, which are infrequent, are targets with smart objectives – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time limited. That way I know when I can truly cross something off as being completed and finished.

    I love your dogs by the way!

  30. I LOVE to-do lists, but I always find OTHER things to do and then after a busy morning,
    I still have nothing crossed off. So, I add the things I already did, cross them off, and feel very good about myself. When you go back to work, don’t try to do it ALL, at least not every day. Well, showers and dog-cuddles for sure, but something else will have to give. There must always be time for reading, of course. And prayer time, especially in the morning. Keeps things centered and focused.

  31. I am glad I am not the only one who loves her lists! I call them “my brain” especially when I am shopping. I do get some odd looks in the supermarket when I ask my little boy what’s next on mummy’s brain lol

  32. Hey guess what!! I met a little doggo just like yours this afternoon and as is the law when you see any dog out and about I stopped to say hello and make a new fluffy four-legged friend.

    “Hello pup! Naww you’re gorgeous what do they call you?”
    Owner “Cricket. His name is Cricket and I’m Rachel”

    Small world and strange coincidences.

    Could have stayed and stroked that little dog all day he was super fluffy and clean 😀

  33. Oy, Rachel, I hate to break this to you, but once you start working, you will have one to-do list at work and another at home! As for me, I only need a to-do list at work. My to-do list at home has another name, it’s called a WIFE. Three cheers for a kindred soul who understands the importance of napping!

  34. Congrats on finishing grad school! I can’t believe you were able to keep up this blog while you were also working on a graduate degree – that’s a lot of work! I know I wasn’t able to keep up another hobby while was in grad school… On the bright side, ever since I finished I can always remind myself that nothing I do is as difficult or stressful as that was, so I know I’ll be able to make it through!


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