Smart Girls Who Do Stupid Things


The Art Of The To-Do List

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These days it seems like I’m always having panic attacks about about how lazy I am and how little I have achieved at my age. These panic attacks usually happen after I hear something about how Adele is only 21. In order to deal with the extreme anxiety and self-loathing, I open my trusty notebook and impose severe order on my life in the form of a to-do list. As I write the to-do list I think things like: This time I am really getting down to business! It’s a new Amulya from now on! Look out, world! If my friends could see me now! Young girl in the big city! Suddenly Susan! Not that last one I don’t know what that is.

I’d thought that these “laziness->panic->discipline” cycles were part and parcel of my recent graduation from college and entrance into adulthood. But then my brother took pictures of to-do lists from my journals from childhood on his iPhone and emailed them to me. I am faced with hard evidence that “OCD Sloth” is not an unfortunate-yet-fleeting trend that I recently picked up (like espadrilles, or a bucket hat), but a fundamental part of who I am.

Allow me to lead you on a magical journey into the mind of a boy genius (me).

Imagine: You are growing up in the Silicon Valley. To ensure that you develop math skills, your parents enroll you in a little Japanese after school math program. This program is called KUMON. Each week you receive six tiny homework packets, each made up of a few translucent sheets of paper. You tell your friends it is rice paper. Maybe you are a little racist, but you are only a child. The nice lady at the KUMON center tells you to do one homework packet each night and time yourself. On the seventh day, she says, you will return to her to complete a last timed homework packet under her supervision, and you will turn in the six already finished homework packets (referred to simply as “KUMONS” by those in the know).

You leave the KUMON center that first day with a white and blue plastic binder that closes up completely like a little box with a velcro closure. Tres Japonais. The whole way home in the car you open and close your new binder-box like the velcro rhythm of life. Your little brother starts crying and kicks you because you are irritating him. You mother screams at you. You smile serenely and continue to open and close the binder-box. Think of all the stickers you are going to put on this binder-box, stickers you will earn through your hard work and amazing ability to complete KUMONS!

The next day you come home from school. Your mother reminds you: do your KUMON. But you have other biznass to take care of, like lying under your bed and pretending to be Anne Frank, and watching re-runs of “The Nanny”. That Fran Drescher is so hilarious! Suddenly it is 9 pm and you have not done your KUMON. It’s okay, you’ll do it tomorrow.

Tomorrow comes. There is more under-the-bed survival work to do. You also have to spend some time looking out your window at the Greek boy playing basketball across the street and hope that he does not yell a racial slur at you. And if you don’t hit your brother and then pretend that he hit you first, who’s going to? You have responsibilities. You can’t be sitting at a desk subtracting double digit numbers and shit.

Five days pass. It is now 8 am on the sixth day. A Sunday. Zero KUMONS completed. You have a panic attack. Your best friend Nitt already knows how to do long division. You are a lazy bitch who doesn’t know her times tables. You are never going to retain your place as the Around The World champion of your class. But then you take out your trusty notebook and devise a plan to regain control. You’re going to do all six KUMONS in one day. And you’re going to be organized as BALLS about it:

Exhibit A

You are a whole new person today! You are really getting down to business!  Suddenly Susan! What?


That flowchart was the beginning of my exploration of the careful art of the to-do list. By the year 2000 I had perfected it. Consider Exhibits B and C:

Exhibit B

Exhibit C

These specimens, culled from my personal archive of master lists, contain the four key secrets of to-dos that every lazy yet extremely anxious and controlling person must master. I now know to include the following in every list:

1. To-dos that establish my authority, in case Future Amulya thinks I’m fucking around. I don’t fuck around.

“by now, 11:20 a.m., 4 Kumons done”.

Thas wassup.

2. Conditional to-dos for when Future Amulya will inevitably try to get ahead of herself. She never thinks before she acts.

“8. Call Latha over 9. Go hiking with Bharat if they come”.

I know what you’re thinking, reader: Obviously, you can’t go hiking with Latha’s son Bharat if he isn’t at your house, that shit won’t work. I know that. You know that. This list isn’t for us. It’s for Future Amulya. Don’t expect me to fathom the workings of her sloth-ly mind.

3. To dos that cover what not to do in case Future Amulya forgets.

“Don’t wash hair”.

Last time she washed it and I had to spend an hour blowdrying it and I was late to Valley Fair Mall, where I had some serious shit to take care of at Abercrombie & Fitch, namely, the purchase of a sleeveless top with the number “58” on it.

4. And then the old classic ‘to do that has already been done prior to the making of the list that I put on there to make Future Amulya feel accomplished’.

“Wake Up”.

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