A Guide to Getting Nothing Done

Are you like me in that you have a lot of things that need to be done?  Are you unlike me in that you do them?  I’m here to help.  I keep a list of tasks that need to be completed in the back of my head.  I have earnestly tried to write lists, but I usually lose them and have to sort through my brainy task agenda anyway.  Though I still write lists with diligence, the finding and tidying of lists just becomes another task in the cerebral lineup of things I need to do.

I keep the things that need doing well organized in my head.  I sort by category.  I’m very good at categorizing.  Cleaning, cooking, communications.  Binge watching, art making, bill paying.  Extra-curricular activities such as car maintenance, locating stuff in the basement or party planning might be filed under Miscellaneous, but I find that too vague a title, so, in order to keep my brain files clear and concise, I just allow the uncategorize-able stuff to free float.  I often forget about them until someone reminds me at zero hour.  Then it’s a bit rush-rush.  This is my secret to getting nothing done.  Everything else must be dropped, and the most pressing ONE THING has to administered to forthwith in order to avoid a crisis.

I’m very often motivated by disaster avoidance.  This particular tactic works well in that several need-to-do things remain undone for days, weeks even.  The longer the list grows, the more frequently this strategy is deployed.  I can’t clean out the fuzzy food lurking in the back of the refrigerator when people are coming over in ten minutes!  Note:  If this particular scenario happens, simply keep the refrigerator door closed and locked.  No one will be the wiser.  Then put in a call to your favorite Chinese restaurant and forget about the science experiments in your fridge for a few more weeks—days, I meant days.

Cleaning is one of those categories that can easily be shoved aside. But not all cleaning.  Let’s look at the task of cleaning the toilet.  How long can you go before it most essentially must be done?  I find there are two types of humans.  One who will, as frequently as necessary, clean a toilet.  The other is one who would never clean a toilet despite whatever health hazards present themselves via commodian pathogens.  Here I have a theory about co-habitation and the two types of tacky-toilet tolerance.

A never-cleaner will always seek a must-cleaner when searching for a mate or cohabitator.  I’m not saying this is a conscious thing.  I believe it is real survival instinct which motivates one’s choice toward residential sharing.  If the incidence of never-cleaners choosing other never-cleaners for two-party living conditions was high, the undone task of cleaning toilets might lead to the end of civilization as we know it.  Or at the very least, no must-cleaner would want to visit the bathroom in such a home lest they succumb to a) death by disgust or b) cleaning the damn thing for those lazy fuck-wads.  It really is unfair to judge people for an unclean toilet.  It is the choice in a mate that must be disparaged because they broke the rules and/or went against human nature.  Thankfully, this is a rarity.

So, if you are a never-cleaner living with a must cleaner, well done!  If you are the must cleaner, here are a few tips toward reducing resentment.  Never let it go too long.  If you are entertaining the idea that the never-cleaner you’re shacked up with will surely be offended by the sight of what the health department itself would condemn, and take it upon themselves to remedy the situation, give it up.  The term never-cleaner implies that even if hospitalizations are eminent, that filth-tolerant slug you adore won’t notice.  Just before that crucial moment, when mankind itself is teetering on the edge of survival due to the state of your nasty commode, save us all, please.  There is something in it for you besides a disaster averted.

Allow several other tasks to fall by the wayside when it’s toilet cleaning day.  Here are some examples of things that can be put off for as long as you need them to be after your heroic efforts.  Making the bed, laundry, taking beer bottles to the recycling bin, dusting, scraping off almost anything from anywhere, retrieving the mail, walking the dog, and cooking.   Again, call your favorite Chinese restaurant since cooking is out of the question after performing the lonely and disgusting chore of bowl maintenance.  And, if you live alone, you might right now be recognizing yourself as one of these two types of toilet cleaners.  Relax, you either do it (and reap the chore-postponing rewards) or pay someone else to do it…when your mother is about to visit, which is probably the only time you might think it’s actually necessary.

Of course, I try to keep in mind that some of the things I need to do are actually things I would like to do.  Really want to do. Long to do.  The key to never getting them done is to have way too many of them.  A plethora of enjoyable diversions from which to choose leads to indecision.  Indecision then gives ways to spontaneous not doing.   Let me illustrate this concept with an example.

I purchased a Spanish story-telling app for my phone.  My plan was to listen to at least one story once a day to keep up with my understanding of the language.  It’s a nice app that allows me to read along (visual learners) or slow down the speaker’s voice (audio learners) and listen to any story as many times as I like.  I’ve listened to two stories in the two months I’ve had it.  I blame crossword puzzles and Netflix. These must be the things I am enthralled with since every other thing I want to do is crowded out by them.  Things I want to do are piling up.  My ukuleles sit un-played.  My sewing machine keeps pointing to all the fabric I have accumulated since Christmas, whimpering at its own idleness.  My Spanish stories say, “¿Donde estás?”

I’ve tried to make a schedule in which I included at least one of the things I want to do each week.  I followed this for a while just before the end of winter.  Then spring came, along with its increased potential for hiking and socializing outdoors.  Then there was a good book I had to finish.  Then I got hooked on several daily crossword puzzles which demanded to be finished in one sitting each afternoon.  I can’t for the life of me understand why I choose some things over others on a consistent basis, since I actually want to do all those things.  Again, there’s just too many.  I tend to do the things which require the least amount of effort.  Nothing to drag out of the closet or up from the basement.  It’s a successful method for not getting things done. 

My days have never been busier.  If I can manage it, I’ll combine a need-to-do with a want-to-do in order to tackle two things at once.  Netflix and weight training go well together.  Come to think of it, so do toilet cleaning and a nice story in Spanish. I think I’m onto something here.  What I need to do is go through the categories in my head of the things I need or want to do and mix and match for compatibility.  Making bagels while taking out the garbage.  Reading a book while scraping last night’s food goo off the counters!   Sewing while…I’ll think of something.  Or not.  Probably not.

Life can be overwhelming when there are too many things to do.  I think I’ve mastered the art of letting go of the feeling that I need to do absolutely everything at the exact appropriate moment.  I know I will play the ukulele again and someday I’ll tackle that pile of fabrics I’ve collected to create some artful articles of substance.  I don’t know when, but I do know that several need-to-do things will be deliberately cast aside until the household is about to fall down and the health inspector demands to see my toilet.  I’m okay with that. Well, maybe not the toilet.  Not for too long anyway.

Often opting for a cup of tea and a good book,



  1. You are hilarious! And yes! several projects that require lots of effort…. instead play word games or read or sit outside and watch birds! ???

  2. Doing nothing is uderrated.
    That’s my new mantra. And I am way too busy not getting things done to think of a new mantra.

  3. So many possibilities! I’m with you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *