Letters to My Editor: You Say To Do List, I Say Cheat Sheet

What does a working relationship between a writer and an editor look like? Author and HNE client, Jessie Clever and I have known each other for more than ten years. So in our case, it looks a little snarky.

Welcome to Letters to My Editor. She writes to me one week on her blog. I reply the next on mine. Mayhem just might ensue.

Click here to read Jessie’s most recent letter.

Letters-to-My-Editor_edited-1Dear Jessie,

A professor of mine always allowed students to use notes on tests (including midterm and final). We were permitted to copy out the entire contents of the text book if we desired as long as it all fit onto the front and back of a single 8.5×11 sheet of paper. At first, I thought that our professor must be an incredible sucker, and I felt I would be dishonestly earning a higher grade than what I actually deserved. However, I complied and made my cheat sheet. With all of the hardest definitions, concepts, and significant dates in minuscule print sitting next to me, I took the test. And didn’t need to refer to the paper life preserver. Not once.

Intentional, focused To Do Lists (TDLs) will never be a waste, even if Lady Barks-a-lot consumes every single one of them. The list itself isn’t the most important thing. The act of making it is. The folks who say it’s a waste of time to make a list are missing the point. Making a TDL should say “these things are important to me” while avoiding being shackled by them. The time is the point.

Two things can happen when you’ve made a TDL:

  1. You might not actually need your list. By allowing me to create and use a thorough cheat sheet, my prof was getting me to study in a far more intentional and extensive way than I would have otherwise. I didn’t need the cheat sheet, because I had taken the time to research, evaluate, and commit to what needed to be on it. When you make a TDL, you’re studying. You’re creating a cheat sheet. By doing that, you might find that you rely on it far less.
  2. You free your brainpower for other things like, perhaps, writing. You’ve taken the time to acknowledge what needs to happen; those deadlines, errands, and emails have been given their moment in the sun. You’ve got the cheat sheet in case you do need the reminder, but now your mind may drop them for a moment while you get about doing things.

Time is the most valuable currency we have. Taking five minutes (set an alarm) to create your TDL for the day (or to review/update an existing TDL) helps prioritize how you spend the rest of your time. TDLs shouldn’t become a way to procrastinate *cough, cough, iPad games, cough* but a means of focusing and freeing yourself to more productive work.

Happy listing!



Be sure to subscribe to Jessie’s blog at Romancing a Blog to get her next letter!

One thought on “Letters to My Editor: You Say To Do List, I Say Cheat Sheet

  1. Pingback: Letters to My Editor: Finding the Editor That's Right for You | Jessie Clever

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