I’m a big fan of to-do lists.
There’s something so satisfying about checking off a task. It’s a rush of excitement, a moment of relief.
But a couple of weeks into my internship at Reader’s Digest I noticed a little problem: I had a full on, undeniable addiction to drawing big, bold lines through my lists.
It started with tiny things, like writing down simple jobs of answering emails and scheduling meetings in my notebook just so I could cross them out. Then it began to escalate. I would write down individual steps in my writing process.
1. Research story on animals in politics
1a. Research Morris the cat mayor of Mexico
1b. Write draft of Morris the cat
1c. Upload draft of Morris the cat
1d. You get the idea
But mincing my assignments didn’t help; they created another problem. While it was easy to finish my to-do lists at the beginning of my internship, as the summer progressed, my assignments and responsibilities began to pile up. I couldn’t cross out everything on my list.
I would leave the office every day counting the tasks I hadn’t finished. Each morning I would wake up feeling guilty and slightly nauseous. I would complete one job to discover three others popped up in its place.
I resented my lists. They were a visible reminder of everything I failed to accomplish. And just as my lists and I were about to reach a point of no return, my notebook staged a silent intervention.
As I flipped through its pages, it hit me. Instead of looking at lists of tasks I hadn’t completed yet, I saw amazing chances and experiences.
Sure, I still had to research photos for a slideshow, but I also learned about tons of trash marring gorgeous landscapes. And yes, it would be nice to finish research on the online story I pitched last week, but creating a database of Reader’s Digest’s editorial audience reviews gave me valuable insight and understanding of what types of stories our readers care about.
Reader’s Digest doesn’t give me tasks to cross off. It gives me responsibilities, trust and opportunities.
Yes, I still get a rush from crossing off completed tasks, but I never want my Reader’s Digest to-do list to end.
Written by Katie Macdonald, Reader's Digest, Louisiana State University