Sunday Ritual

21 April 2024 • Personal

A good pen, some paper, and time

I’ve talked before about how I desperately want to be someone who uses a pocket notebook. I’ve also realized that this just is not who I am as a person.

But there’s just something cathartic, something that scratches a primal urge, about writing out a to-do list, and marking things off as I go.

Every Sunday, after V goes down for the night, I settle in at my desk, grab my pad of paper and my trusty pens, rip off last week’s list, and start anew. I’ve got 2 sections:

  • The standard to do list, with the important things that I want to get done this week.
  • The essential repeating blocks tracking my 5 important things I want to carve out time for; Read, Watch, Play, Create, and Move.

My friend Patrick, who spends a lot of time thinking about the best ways to get things done, once wrote:

Your to-do list should be a sacred place. It should be filled only with the things you really plan on doing, are consistently evaluating and are taking active steps move items forward and to get those things done.

I think the general spirit of this is good, and anything that makes my list for this week is actually something I want to get done. Fold laundry. Make an update to my site. Call to get gutters cleaned. But I also move things that weren’t completed last week over; if I find myself moving the thing over more than once, it gets a ”?” tossed after it, and if it’s not done that week, I’ve shown myself that it’s not really important, and it’s ok to not put on the list.1

I started doing this sometime in 2023, and it’s honestly been the best thing for me to get things done. Gone are the days of daily to-do lists. Gone is the guilt of not crossing everything off my list, and thus immediately feeling doom & gloom about starting on today’s items.

My biggest gripe in the past has been, how do I remind myself about things that I want to get done if I’m not at my desk? Occasionally, I’ll sprint upstairs, add the item, and return. But if I’m out and about, or busy with family, I’ll just have Siri remind me of the thing at 8pm (which is usually at/after V goes to bed for the night). Elegant? Not really. Functional? Absolutely.2

The older I get, the more I realize that I basically have to trick my brain, or turn things into a game, in order to get the most out of it. Put a carrot on a stick (“hey, if you do this, you can get your red pen and fill in the square”), and I’m golden. Gone are the days I wish I could just “be normal like everyone else”. I am myself, I’m glad I’m me; this works for how I operate, and that’s the only thing that matters.

  1. I liken this to turning your clothes hangers backwards every spring, and donating the clothes that don’t get worn that following year. Small things I can do to remind my future self that my past self was looking out for me. 

  2. We went to Target yesterday, and as we were walking in, my phone buzzed; I had set a location-based reminder saying “Target Gift Card”, reminding me that I had one on me (which is good, because with contactless payment options, I don’t even open my bag most times). My wife thinks I’m nuts.