Posted in Family, Travel

What A To-Do! The Tale of My Young Daughter’s Action List

Laura in Bronze Age costume at the Scottish Crannog Centre
Laura and friend travel back in time to the Bronze Age at the Scottish Crannog Centre

This evening, I’m intrigued to find my nine-year-old daughter preparing for a playdate in a very grown-up way: she’s made an action list.

I thought I was the only one in our household to use this method to try to squeeze more tasks into the day than time allows. Action lists, shopping lists, book lists – I’m constantly finding scribbled strips of paper stuffed in pockets and handbags that I’ve promptly forgotten without completing.

Even so, the act of writing down my plans gives me the illusion that I will at some point complete them. This is in spite of my self-scolding mantra: “The best way to get something done is to do it” – chanted to remind myself to stop messing about and get on with it.

Sometimes my lists are thoughtfully numbered in priority order or prefaced with egalitarian bullet-points, to deem no one item more important than the others. Either way, jotting the items down gives me the illusion that I’m in control of my hectic life. They usually contain at least 10 points.

I was therefore taken aback recently to hear an excellent management trainer declare that no action list should be bigger than a Post-it Note. My friend, who masterminds A4, Excel-formated to-do lists to manage all aspects of her life, was equally aghast.  When it comes to to-do lists, less is apparently more.

Wearing the ancient plaid at the HIghland Folk Museum, Newtonmore
Sometimes I join her to travel back in time: enjoying life in an 18th century croft at The Highland Folk Museum

But it’s not the size of my daughter’s action list that impresses me: it’s the breadth and ambition of her planned tasks. Whereas mine is full of practical mundanities that I am not looking forward to completing (place grocery order, do ironing, buy school uniform), her neat, bullet-pointed list  is positively adventurous:

  • travel back in time
  • get ship-wrecked
  • start an animal hotel

She pays no heed to  boring time constraints, budget, nor the rules of nature. I am dazzled by her exciting prospects. Her to-do list certainly puts mine in the shade.

As Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it. Just remember this whole thing was started by a mouse.” I reckon my problem is that I’ve not been dreaming enough. So I’ve put my old action list in the bin, and I’ll share with you my new list of things to do today – all the stuff of my dreams:

  • become fluent in a language that uses pictograms instead of lettters
  • have lunch with George Orwell and Gerald Durrell
  • discover the secret of how to become invisible
  • take a trip on a real flying carpet

And even better, I can fit it my new list easily on to a Post-it note! So what are your plans for today?

The Flying Carpet by Viktor Vasnetsov (1880) Photo credit: Wikipedia
And I’m off…

If you enjoyed reading this, you might enjoy these posts on a similar theme:

How To Get Things Done

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English author of warm, witty cosy mystery novels including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries and the Gemma Lamb/St Bride's School series. Novels published by Boldwood Books, all other books by Hawkesbury Press. Represented by Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agents. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. Course tutor for Jericho Writers. UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors. Lives and writes in her Victorian cottage in the heart of the beautiful Cotswold countryside.

9 thoughts on “What A To-Do! The Tale of My Young Daughter’s Action List

  1. Hi Debbie, Enjoyed your piece(never quite know whether to call it a blog, post or whatever!) as per. But can I tentatively point out that one of the main launch pads for travelling back (or forward)in time is, of course, a book! Unlike old Jimmy’s Magic Patch it also has the advantage of jerking you back to the present, or square (page) one! It’s how all we book lovers started, isn’t it? Almost literally transported, as we buried ourselves deeper and deeper into our bedclothes, sometimes even performing that (some say!) impossible feat of hugging ourselves with excitement and pleasure. And then the voice from downstairs bellowing, “If you don’t put that light out I’ll come up there and knock you into the middle of next week!”
    Now, that’s real time travel!
    Stay well.

    1. Oh yes, Shaun, absolutely! I have always loved books that transport you – I took out Hilda Lewis’s “The Ship That Flew” time and again from our public library, and lived in hope of one of the chairs in our house sprouting wings, like the one in Enid Blyton’s Wishing Chair books! And it’s amazing how the act of getting lost in a good book will make the time pass by in an instant, whether or not it’s a book about time travel – good books are responsible for far too many late nights in my house!

    1. I’ll let you know, Jo! (Have you ever been on the flying carpet ride at the Walt Disney Studios in Disneyland Paris? Absolutely in my element there!)

      1. Whaaaat? There’s a flying carpet ride? How cool! Fun post, Debbie. There must be something about Lauras and animals, because I, too, would like to start an animal hotel!

      2. The flying carpet ride is VERY cool! Really it’s only just like the flying Dumbos ride but with carpets instead of elephants – but that’s enough to get my imagination going! That’s funny about the animal hotel – have you seen the film Hotel for Dogs? One of my Laura’s favourites (and the ending makes me cry every time – but in a good way!)

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