Some people go to church on Sundays. I go to office supply stores.

Some people see organisation as a handy but ultimately dispensable tool; a way to corral the events and chores of the day into a docile herd of cattle to drive from the Texas of the morning through the Arkansas of the afternoon, finally coming to rest in the quiet Missouri of the night.

I see organisation as a religion, and every horizontal line on the pages of my daily planner is an ironclad commandment that will keep my eternal soul safe from the fires of damnation and the Devil’s searching hands¹.

Some people are content to let life come as it may and make do with writing the occasional reminder on their Google Calendar that Cobalt Larry expects the money from the book they’re keeping back on Friday and the vig is running².

I pray for these misguided fools, but not often, because I don’t want to throw my schedule out.

I’m trying to make two points here. The first is that suck it Rangers, we won the Series. The second is that my childlike faith in the power of organisation to get me everything I have ever wanted is, at one and the same time, absolutely steadfast and almost completely bordering on the mindless. Especially when taking into consideration the fact that my complex and multi-faceted plans – which can be ludicrously short on detail, but make up for that by being even ludicrouslyer shorter on plausibility³ and correct word usage – rarely go off without a hitch. And that hitch is almost always due to the fact that when it comes time to actually do something, I instead always choose to watch TV.

My reasoning for this is entirely justified. I watch TV because I really, really want to. And while, somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m all too aware there’s an Excel file lying dormant in the far reaches of my computer, at the front of my mind, and much bigger, there’s an awareness that I like to sit on the couch and watch Dexter much more than I like doing any real and actual work, or, indeed, moving much. If it wasn’t for the fall programming break, I would have starved to death years ago.

In principle, the end goal of this kind of hyper-organisation is one of freedom. It stands to reason that if I can get all the things I want to get done out of the way in an intelligent, timely manner, then I will be a) more productive in general, b) more relaxed, and c) left with more time to enjoy my leisure time, as there will be fewer things to crowd in and demand my attention throughout the day.

In practice, this usually goes south in a matter of hours, if not minutes, because inevitably, I fall victim to my various psychological resistances⁴ to accomplishing anything beyond keeping my Spam folder clean of advertisements for Viagra⁵ or, ironically, spamming everyone foolish enough to not have blocked me from their feed yet with constant, unremitting Facebook status updates⁶.

Trying to move past this self-destructive streak is like Tobey Maguire fighting the Sandman in Spiderman 3. No matter what punches you throw, no matter how relentlessly you fight, no matter how hard you hit… you’re still in a terrible, terrible, bad, awful film, and Topher Grace is the only one getting away with his dignity intact.

Knowing this, I still press on.

After returning from the US earlier this year, I decided I needed a plan. I decided I needed direction and structure and motivation. I decided I would put together a list of 20 goals – no more, no less – and knock them over, one by one. I chose to keep the list contained to 20 because I knew I have a tendency to over-burden myself, and, by attempting to do too much, in fact accomplish nothing⁷.

20! I said to myself. And no more! I refuse to fall into the same trap again!

25! I said to myself, one week later. And no more!

I gave myself three months. 25 things across 12 weeks; a mix of the easy and the hard, the time-sensitive and the expansive, the achievable and the requiring of divine assistance.

Given that Plan A hadn’t gone as hoped, I decided to name this goal list Plan B.

Part One.

I enjoy headings.

I completed 17 of the 25 items by the time my self-imposed time limit was done, and the 8 remaining were in varying stages of completion. Not bad, for a first run, I said to myself. And I can’t believe Joe Biden didn’t write back. I thought he was cool. And then, as I was coming back (again) from the USA (again) a few weeks ago, on my Virgin Australia flight, thirty thousand feet above the Pacific Ocean, I started sketching out Plan B, Part Two.

Again, 20 items. Again, 12 weeks. But this time, I decided, I would expand my knowledge base. I would husband the gaps in my ability with the intelligence of others. I would create a Facebook group, and ask for the insight and advice of the people I knew. I would access their knowledge and know-how and make my tasks simpler. Running 10K? What do I know about running 10K? Nothing, that’s what.

But I knew I knew people who did.

I created my group, sent out my invites, and got to the work of creating my list of goals.

Very quickly, the replies started to pour back in, and I nodded, sagely, to myself. There it is, Simon, I thought. Proof. Undeniable proof. You’re a genius. No one has ever thought of anything this smart ever. And I started reading through the accumulated wisdom of my peers.

Alice: Hey, do you know every time you update something, I get an email?

Ben: Hey, do you know every time you make a change on this group, Facebook emails me?


If you have no experience with the new Facebook Groups system, what you may not know is that the new default settings mean:

  1. People don’t have the option of choosing to say yes to group membership. If you invite them, they are automatically added and it’s left up to them to choose to leave.
  2. People have to additionally uncheck, rather than check, their approval of receiving notifications about each and every single thing that happens in said group.

If you have no experience with the new Facebook Groups system, what you quickly find out is that everyone gets annoyed by:

  1. Receiving 40 odd emails informing them of every single thing that’s written, in a group that
  2. they didn’t agree to joining in the first place.

After posting groveling apologies within the group, as my status and via email, and wondering aloud at the wisdom of a system that could, technically, allow me to add anyone I was friends with to a group titled anything I wanted, take a screenshot of their membership, and then send said screenshot to their place of employment, families, and Fantasy Baseball leagues, I started hastily deleting people from the group so they didn’t receive more of the same messages.

Once again, I blame Zuckerburg for everything.

That has ever happened to me.


Wildly non-helpful mass emailing of the people I had asked to help me aside, I managed to get my twenty-goal list up and exposed to the accumulated genius of the group.

  1. 8 weeks of Spanish revision
  2. Complete and launch an in-progress e-publishing idea
  3. Complete and submit an in-progress non-fiction proposal
  4. Complete and submit an in-progress scripted TV pilot pitch in the States
  5. Write four pieces for magazine submission
  6. Write my reading list for 2011
  7. Write my writing list for 2011 (list of lists are some of my favourite lists)
  8. 12 weeks of working out and swimming
  9. Take my tri-weekly runs from 5K to 10K (or 3.1 miles to 6.2 miles)
  10. Clean and organise everything
  11. A new laptop
  12. A new camera
  13. Pay off my credit card debt
  14. Write 4 pieces for TNB
  15. Work out where to take my Plan B in 2011
  16. Take better care of my skin
  17. Complete and submit an in-progress scripted TV pitch in Australia
  18. Plan out a vacation with some friends over Christmas
  19. Work out a way to live in the USA again
  20. Make $50K.

Some are designed to be easy. Writing lists of books I want to read, or avenues of publication I’d like to follow up? Easy. Surprisingly fun. And a good way to get some items knocked off straight off the bat and build some momentum. And I don’t have to break anyone’s legs (or put myself in a position where someone will break mine) to pay off my minor credit card debt; I simply wanted to be aware of it.

I have less than no idea how to make fifty grand in twelve weeks. But I figured it’s good to have something to shoot for. Also, I’d really like fifty thousand dollars.

And after the initial hurdles, advice flooded in. Don Mitchell and Kristen Elde provided help with running tips and guidelines for how to avoid injury. Photographer friends gave me advice on good camera buys. People told me what worked for their skin, for making housecleaning easy, for pitching scripts. People mentioned friends of their I should get in touch with; and, if nothing good is on TV tonight, I’m sure I will.

So far I’ve completed items #6, #7, #10, and #11, and made a start, at least, on every single other item.

Which is just as well, because with my schedule, it’s really hard to get anything done.

¹ The damnation of wasted time, and the searching hands of the Devil of an unrealistic budget. Also of my friend Clue, who has boundary issues and makes us all feel really uncomfortable.

² And if Cobalt Larry don’t get his end, you best believe someone’s going in the cobalt.

³ Life List Item #82: Be Mayor of Somewhere.*

* Seriously.

⁴ See: Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Paralysed/Maladaptive Perfectionism, and Gerard Butler-by-Proxy

⁵ Where do they keep coming from? Who keeps doing this?

⁶ Everything I think and do is interesting.

⁷ AKA Three Stooges Syndrome.

TAGS: , , , , , , , ,

SIMON SMITHSON is an Australian writer and editor. He is currently based in Melbourne, Australia, but frequently finds himself in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His work has appeared on both sides of the globe in print and online in publications such as BLIP, Every Day Fiction, Beat, The Loop, My Sinking Boat, and more. He has a tumblr at www.simonsmithson.com and he runs a lifestyle experiment at www.selfhelpless.net.

77 responses to “Plan B”

  1. dwoz says:

    You’re going to need all that cash from item 14 to accomplish item 13. Hopefully the list isn’t sequential.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      Wait, we get paid for this? Shit! Nobody told me.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        Wait, payment? For writing? Hot damn! I’ve heard of that; I thought it was a legend, a myth, a tale that asylum inmates whispered late at night.

        That, or something that happens to John Grisham.

  2. Irene Zion says:


    I foresee some problems with your list.
    #10 is unfeasible. You can’t put something unfeasible on your must-do list.

    If you are successful with #11 and #12, you cannot possibly be successful with #13.
    Do the math.

    You can raise #14, though, since you almost always have two posts on the same page.
    Raise it to 100.

    You are biting off more than you can chew here, setting yourself up for certain failure.
    Surely, that’s not what you want.

    Make a shorter list.
    Start with one thing.
    Do it.
    Then do one other thing.
    Do it.
    Then do another thing, and so on.
    That’s the ticket!

    • Don Mitchell says:

      Your advice is good, Irene, but I think our Mr. Smithson is more of a parallel-processing guy than a serial-processing guy. He wants to set out on all these journeys at the same time.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        @Irene: Ah, I should have been more specific. When I say clean and organise everything, I meant everything in my life. And I’m pleased to say that was one of the first candidates to be crossed off. I simply went room by room, area by area, drawer by drawer. Jessica Anya Blau gave me some great advice on spring-cleaning and turfing junk. My filing cabinets have been to Fat Camp and returned, sleek and svelte.

        I was lucky enough to have enough left over from my trip to buy a new camera; one that wasn’t too expensive. I’ll save for the laptop, but the first port of call is the credit card debt, as that’s the one that will accrue interest.

        I think we need a balance between the easy and the inspiring. I’ll dare to be great!

        And now I have the phrase ‘Dare to be a Great Dane’ in my head, and I don’t know why.

        @Don: correct! Parallel-processing my way all the way to victory!

  3. Simon,

    Love this, man. Fun, experimental, wicked smart. I can’t help but think of the late D. Foster Wallace… Maybe it’s the footnotes.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Muchos gracias, Senor Matthew!

      You know, I’ve never read anything by DFW? Except a short excerpt from A Supposedly Fun Thing. Infinite Jest is on my list of things to read in 2011; I can be an amazingly lazy reader, and it’s something I’d like to change my approach on. I’m missing out on both the experience of great work, and the inspiration it might bring me.

  4. Don Mitchell says:

    I’d say the key to #11 and #12 is to carefully define “new.”

    New to you?
    New in the box?

    New to you’s a lot cheaper. Hell, I’ve got an old Nikon F body from 1968 and there must be an old lens floating around somewhere — there’s your New To You camera.

    Or you could flush #10, as Irene says, and substitute for it “Get tight with a thief and/or conman.” That would help with 11, 12, 13, and 20.

    Of course you did say that you’d already completed #11.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Damn it.

      I wish I’d thought of that.

      I think defining the goals and the specifics are important. I didn’t go into the hard-edged nature of them on this post for the sake of brevity (or, rather, avoiding bloatedness), but I’m trying to keep very strict parameters on what constitutes accomplishment – fuzziness is the enemy of productivity!

      My pie-in-the-sky camera ideal was a Nikon D300S. Something far higher-end than my experience or budget warrants. Zara pointed out the camera she brought on our trip was a Nikon G11, and a photographer friend linked me to this:


      Add to the fact the G12 has just come out, and I had some money left over from my recent trip Stateside, and I’m the proud owner of a new Canon G11.

      Now, to learn to use it…

      • Don Mitchell says:

        Hah. That was a D300 taking pictures of you and Z in East Randolph. Not a D300s, though, which is newer and most likely better — video, and all.

        But in fact I was admiring Z’s camera myself. It looked as though it had all the good tricks in a compact body. No, wait, that’s Z. No. Stop.

        Seriously, you made a good choice. It’s a big leap to those DSLRs, which can be godawful heavy.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I know nothing about photography or cameras – I think I made the choice for a D300S because it was the first thing I saw, and, to me, one fancy-looking piece of work is just as good as another. No, wait, that’s Z again.


          This is fun.

          Baby steps, you know? Something easy and user-friendly to learn the ropes with. And then it’s on to the Leicas!

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          This is like the “Whose Line is it Anyway” Innuendo sketch. 😀

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I wish, I wish, I wish I wasn’t at work right now.

        • Simon Smithson says:


          I miss this show so much.

      • Don Mitchell says:

        Oh, Leica by all means.

        Here’s the one you need.


        It’s bigger than the G11, though.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          OK. After I’ve gotten my first fifty thousand dollars, I’ll get another, and see if I can grab two for twenty five K each. Economies of scale, you know? Then we can both roll Leica!

  5. Becky Palapala says:

    Oh Simon.

    The lists. The organizing.

    The obsession.

    You know I find it at once awe-inspiring and terrifying. Come! Come with me! To the land of the lotus-eaters! I have Sims 3 and Xbox and DVR’d episodes of House and Burn Notice and Fringe to last a century! Certainly enough to outlast this devilish compulsion towards productivity.


    I have all kinds of calendar notifications on my phone to help me do the most basic things. Clean, do laundry, go for a walk.

    I usually just put my phone on vibrate and then get pissed at it when a sudden burst of activity indicates me from the past, harrassing me in the present, rather than an a fun or exciting text message.

    “Fuck you Becky from the past! I won’t do what you tell me!”

    • Simon Smithson says:

      More! More! More! I can make the world make sense! I can! As long as I have the right-sized stackable in-trays!

      The problem with relying on organisation so much is that the way I go about carries an inherent inflexibility. Which my subconscious apparently hates like cancer, and so it’s nothing but counter-productive. A book I love like I love Ian Somerhalder is Getting Things Done, which I’ve spoken to you about before. The whole principle behind it is a more organic approach to ‘work’; ‘work’ being defined as the process of changing anything from one state to another. Therefore, sending a man to the moon is work. Getting drunk and ranting at the tube is work. But work is not an inherently bad thing – it’s a lot like the scientific definition of work that way. It just means something is happening.

      Is Becky from the past Zack de la Rocha?

      • Becky Palapala says:

        No, silly. Becky from the present is Zach. Becky from the past, who set the notifications, is “The Man.”

        Yeah. I know about your book.

        Does that mean “Watch Dexter” is work?

      • Becky Palapala says:

        By the by, this “I will take hold of the world and bend it to my will!”

        Very Cancerian.

        I’ve known a few.

        It’s sort of like wooing a girl with a club to the head. Even if you win, you don’t really win.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          RE: Dexter. Totally! I’m moving from a state on not-watching/hasn’t-watched to is-watching/has-watched. It’s just my brain isn’t smart enough to always be aware of that fact.

          Until now. I owe you a solid for pointing that out, I think.

          Oh, is it? I thought we were supposed to more retiring types?

          Oh! No! The claws! The claws!

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Oh yeah, it’s very subtle. You don’t even know you’re doing it. How could you? It’s automatic.

          One of my closest friends (an ex) is Cancerian. And I mean close. Like, we’ve been through enough to predict each other’s thoughts and behaviors and react intuitively. He’s dear to me like few people. I love him to death and he is precious to me like almost no one on earth besides my mother and my husband.

          He, too, is in search of order. Forever. And ever. Always trying to regulate everything. Finally, after a half dozen apocalyptic fights, he stopped trying to regulate me and I stopped pushing his buttons.

          Now we exist in a state of grudging, yet resigned and comfy, respect.

          Anyway, Cancers are control freaks. Ask Greg. Totes judgmental.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          And now! “The claws the claws” makes sense.

          Yes! Pinchie pinchie! Judgmental is the wrong word. Super wrong.

          I don’t even know what the right word is. It’s a…thing…a cancer thing…with no word that describes it.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          The whole Cancerian thing is supposed to be about establishing ‘home’, right? Or at least, one of the Cancer drives. I guess that ties into establishing a safe, castle-y type atmosphere.


          The claws, the claws!

          Mr. Burns: So, you can take the money, or you can trade it all in for the contents of the mysterious box by which the lovely Smithers is standing!

          Nuclear Safety Inspector: The box, the box!

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Oh man, I don’t know.

          Maybe that’s just what it is. A sort of homey or protective-of-home nature. Something along those lines.

          But I swear I read somewhere that it can get overly-idealistic, micro-managing, etc.

          And maybe it’s not cancers, necessarily, just something in my reaction to/perception of them and vice versa. Some kind of astro-alchemy. The catalyst being, maybe, my own uniquely violent reaction to being managed. But there does seem to be some kind of a pattern.

          Anyway. The point is: LISTS!


          I don’t know if you watch Chuck, but I do, and I’m behind, and I guess he was kidnapped. :-0

        • Simon Smithson says:

          The shell, the shell!

          Micro-managing is awesome when it’s something I get to do to other people. That’s when it really hits it peak potential.

          Lists are the bomb. One of my least favourite things in the world is when I accidentally cross the wrong thing off a list, and thus deny myself the pleasure of properly crossing it off at a later date.

          I have never seen an episode of Chuck. But Dean got kidnapped on the latest ep of Supernatural!

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Hah! This just in:

          Fiddler crabs, if they have enough food and therefore energy, will build elaborate “chimney” systems around their burrows for no apparent reason. Maybe to conceal the entrance to the burrow, but 90% of fiddler crabs get along without the chimneys, and the cost/benefit ratio of this fancy behavior is curious at least.

          Maybe you’re a fiddler crab, Simon. You and your chimneys and your one big claw. They all sort of look like they’re giving the camera the “West Siiiiieeeeeeeed!”

        • Simon Smithson says:

          That’s the awesome crab I’ve ever seen!

        • Simon Smithson says:



  6. I’ve always considered list-making a sorely overlooked art form, so I’m always happy when I come across someone cultivating it. I like the slightly manic energy that moves this piece along. And I love lists of lists almost as much I dislike the new facebook group settings. Though, as before, I’ll probably do nothing about the latter because, still, it’s nice to be asked.

    Anyway, sounds like quite a year ahead.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thanks, Nathaniel! I was thinking back to some of the early days of TNB (early to me) and the energy that permeated it, and I was hoping to capture some of that in this piece.

      Seriously, if you haven’t, pick up a copy of David Allen’s Getting Things Done. It details the greatest system in the history of mankind of, unsurprisingly, getting things done.

      Apart from being a Roman Emperor, because those guys really knew how to take care of business.

      Yes. I’ve got 10 weeks to go on Plan B, Part Two. Plan B, Part Three… that’ll be 2011.

  7. Zara Potts says:

    You are your crazy lists, brew!
    I’m going to buy you a ‘listmania’ book for Christmas.

    This is one of the reasons I love you: your amazing enthusiasm for creating lists, crossing off lists, conquering lists and then starting another list. You are indefatigable!!

    I, on the other hand, hate lists. I don’t even like shopping lists. I never go to the supermarket with one. I work entirely on impulse.

    It would be interesting to see which encounters more success: impulse decision making or created ‘listmaking’ decision making…

    Nice post, BTW! You are funny.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      The difficulty being, of course, that while I’m writing my reams upon reams of lists, other people are out doing the things that I’m writing lists about doing.

      But I’ll show them.

      Thanks brew! I didn’t know you were so anti-list. How come?

  8. jmblaine says:

    I asked the Rabbi
    about the whole time thing
    awhile back and he said
    “Either all time is wasted
    or no time is wasted.”

    Rabbis & monks, I tell ya.

    I should be a late night
    grocery store monk.
    That’s my office supply store.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      All of humanity can be found in the late night grocery store, brother. In one aisle or another.

      Was it Einstein who said there were two ways of living? As if everything was a miracle, or nothing was.

    • Irene Zion says:


      Save this one in your book of poems
      which stand alone.

  9. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    The first half of my life was marked by relentless attention to control chaos. Then I hit early middle age. Nature seeks a balance, and it bitch slapped me into an alternate way of being for several years. Nothing is fixed for me any more. That’s not to say I don’t set goals or pay attention to clock-time. After all, I’m still a Virgo. It’s that I’ve accepted life WILL contain uncertainty, despite the best-laid plans, and (you’re into this stuff, so you understand) one will be led to one’s purpose.

    One of my newest “organizing” tools is my project corkboard. I no longer keep a list of ideas for essays and books I’d like to write. Now the projects are clustered thematically with the working titles on little square pieces of paper (I love that it’s visual) and have escaped the bounds of hierarchy.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      Ronlyn – are you a Mac-based writer? If so, and if you’re fond of corkboard/organizing tools, then check out Scrivener 2.0. It’s a wonderful package with different ways to display and organize your projects and their pieces.

      There’s a Windows version in beta, but the Mac one is up to v2.0 and I couldn’t live without it. And it’s not expensive ($45)

      OK, pimping alerts on:


      Anyone else …. if you’re Mac-based, you should check it out.

      • Ronlyn Domingue says:

        Alas, I’m not Mac-based. Before I became a full-time writer, I worked as a consultant for nonprofits. To limit problems with file conversion, I got a PC, although I may one day return to Mac. It’s what I used in college and on my first job.

        Until then, I kick it old school. I have two huge corkboards with notes and tidbits for Novel #2. I also LOVE the physical act of cutting and pasting and moving things around.

        Maybe I’ll check out that beta version. Thanks for mentioning it.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I’ve been far to restrictive in my thinking, but I also like the idea of breaking things down into accomplishable steps. For instance, I have a list of things I want to do to get my Spanish revision on from week to week. The trick is to keep them on that tightrope between challenging and impossible; just enough to keep a healthy momentum. Which is something I lost track of for a while, making the tasks thankless.

          “It’s that I’ve accepted life WILL contain uncertainty, despite the best-laid plans, and (you’re into this stuff, so you understand) one will be led to one’s purpose.”

          And how.

          The chorus of Mac recommendations has been interesting. I personally am PC all the way. Always have been, probably always will be.

        • Ronlyn Domingue says:

          The accomplishable steps thing—I get it.

          Last week, I decided to figure out how much I have left to write for Novel #2’s first draft, based on my estimated final word count. After culling through typed notes, which do not count, I calculated that was 61% to goal. Now I have a little collection of pie charts that I can fill in for each section of the book to mark what’s complete. I can SEE what I’ve accomplished and how far I have to go.

          Strangely, the days after I did the calculation, my daily word count shot up FIVE TIMES what it had been. This bodes well for me to reach my draft completion date goal.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Oh my God.

          I can’t believe I haven’t factored in pie charts yet.

          It’s wonderful when you get that bite of motivation; that edge. I love that feeling. It’s often one that comes while exercising, as that’s one of the purest effort:reward activities a person can do.

  10. The first is that suck it Rangers, we won the Series.


  11. Richard Cox says:

    I feel remiss in that I haven’t been participating in the FB group thing. After the emails stopped coming it fell off my radar. I’ve been really busy and also have a short attention span.

    So tell me more about #2. And #17.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Yes. I feel you have been remiss too, RC. In your dealings with a group you never explicitly agreed to participate in anyway.


      It’s all good, amigo. I look at the help of the others as a privilege, not a right. I’ll send you a private message about #2, as we’re still keeping that under our hats for right now, but on the front of #17, I can say that wheels are turning. The earliest of early stages is in place with a production company over here, but I’m not going to cross anything off the list until I’ve signed something.

      Jinxes, you know?

  12. Matt says:

    Sorry I’m a little too busy dealing with life stuff right now to contribute to your vanquishing of your list, Simon, but I can pitch in with two piece of advice:

    1.) Be like water. It might flow down hill, but it adapts to any path to get there.

    2.) If you’re out with your drinking buddies and you start spotting pandas, there’s a good chance someone slipping something into your drink.

    The thought of Topher Grace having any dignity is really, really funny. They should make a movie about it.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Don’t worry. Vanquish I can, and vanquish I shall!

      1. That’s the advice of Getting Things Done, actually. David Allen recommends adopting a ‘mind like water’ kind of approach.

      2. What if my buddy is David Wills? Anything could happen around that guy.

      • Matt says:

        True. But in that particular case – out drinking with Wills – the panda would like be run over by a crazy/senile/drunk cab driver, who would insist you kill it. Or would rectally violate it. Or just eat it. And then, later, some anonymous asshole would get online and call you both hacks for writing about the experience.

  13. Joe Daly says:

    I’m so stoked to be in that FB group. I’m afraid to comment because I haven’t contributed to any of the solutions. I’m anxious to see how you attack #16. With the advent of winter here in California, my pale Celtic skin will go dryer than a… well, I’m not going to complete that metaphor, but you all know it was going to be foul.

    Lists are wonderful and your strategic acumen, unbridled persistence, and hemispherean pimping will see the Universe mowing your lawn by the time the list is halfway done.

    Looking forward to the progress reports, my large-pimping amigo…

    • Simon Smithson says:

      My damn English skin! Yet another serpent of a gift from my mother!

      Moisturiser, dude. Green tea bags. Body Shop Maca products. Exfoliate made from virgin olive oil and caster sugar. It’s working out so far!

      Ah, comment away. I don’t mind a bit.


      That Universe will mow my lawn.

      (best phrase ever, by the way).

      How goes the pimping?

  14. Gloria says:

    Your list is genius. I may steal pieces of it.

    I have zero desire to return to facebook. This post just took that desire down to -1, actually. Thanks for that.

    You’re hilarious, Smithson.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Muchos gracias, Madre de Dos!

      Is Facebook stumbling recently? More and more people seem to be saying that they’re losing interest.

      And thank you! It’s always nice to be appreciated.

  15. Dude, you’re just trying to show up all us other stronger-than-crack-TV-watchers, aren’t you?

    Speaking of which – was John Lithgow the fucking creepiest on Dexter Season 4 OR WHAT???? Also – that season finale? OMFG!!!

    (I don’t have Showtime, so I won’t see Season 5 until it hits NetFlix. I’m quite. literally, on pins and needles [hypodermic needles filled with sedatives, that is] until it comes out.)

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I’ve started hardlining my TV watching severely of late. There’s just too much, so if a show doesn’t meet my personal goals for me as a viewer… it’s cut.

      Let the fate of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia be a lesson to the rest of you, 2010 season.

      Lithgow was great on Season 4. As was, as always, Michael C. Hall. That bit with the belt around the neck in the kitchen? Man. So good. I’ve seen the first few eps of S5, and liked it. As of right now, my most faithful watching is reserved for Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries. Because I’m a big girl. Supernatural is on sufferance though – brand loyalty only takes one so far, and they’ve been dropping the ball a lot recently.

  16. Ah yes, the group you made me join and then kicked me out of 😉 I think I can help you with your TV pilot pitch: a guy makes a list of twenty things he needs help with …

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Yes, well. It was for your own good! I swear! And I’ve since re-added you. So there!

      Wait. Did I just turn into Dr. Seuss?

  17. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    Simon, your neurosis soothes me. I have this OCD affinity for symmetry. I go into a trance watching synchronized roller-bladers, etc. So, I appreciate your lists. The group effort is funny, because codependence is funny. Why is codependence funny? Because I’m antisocial, so I find dysfunction a hilarious telescope into the world of the living, whom I haughtily laugh at from the safety of my cave.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Neurosis… or geni-osis?

      I guess it depends on what the actual outcome is. If the day should come when I’m the king of a small, non-Eastern European country, then we can safely say I was right all along.

      I’m actually all about interdependence. It’s when the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Like when I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and realised I could steal the term ‘interdependence’ from Stephen R. Covey.

      • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

        If you didn’t clutter your brain with conventional communism as you choose to do, a.k.a. watching television and reading trashy novels like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you’d recall ‘interdependence’ as an existing word long before Stephen R. Covey effectively increased your credit card bill via amazon.com. (See Webster’s New World Dictionary. It’s what I read when I’m feeling independent.)

        Also, Lisaland is a private island. I’m queen. It’s an oceanfront domain and I even have an elf. I pass him off as my son so the public schools will babysit and give him lunch.

        Do you celebrate aboriginal genocide with a large turkey dinner in Australia? It’s Thanksgiving Day here in the States. I’m about to bake a pumpkin pie, which I will eat at an interdependent potluck with an assembly of family and friends post-beach football toss. We will then celebrate the interdependent founding of this great nation. (See Webster’s New World Dictionary. slav-er-y. mur-der.)

        • Simon Smithson says:

          My brain has room for plenty more. I just need to forget how to do some of the stuff I know how to do. Which means I’ll be giving up my beloved crocheting, but so be it.

          Also, I refuse to believe that anyone ever thought of anything before Stephen R. Covey thought of it, regardless of what reasonable arguments or evidence are presented to me. Webster’s New World Dictionary?

          That’s not real.

          We celebrate our genocidal history with Australia Day, which is also referred to by some as Invasion Day. It’s January 26, and there isn’t really a ceremonial food associated with it. We just get drunk.

  18. I was afraid to respond to this post in case I received several hundred e-mails. Here’s hoping for the best…

    It seems like we’re opposites in regards organisation. I a man of absolutely no religious beliefs, but when it comes to the future, or simply gettin’ shit done, I like to put my faith in something… I don’t know. Maybe fate. Maybe even me. Whatever it is, I like that feeling of randomness that makes anything possible, and ensures that something mad and crazy will always happen.

    But then, I also like lists. They’re a way of doing something in the hope of really doing something. I make a lot of lists of things to do, and I never actually do much about it. Sometimes I cross items off the list, then write them down again. Why? It makes me feel like I’ve done something. Which is really something, isn’t it?

    Right now my list consists of: LEARN EVERYTHING ABOUT AUSTRALIA. Tomorrow morning I have to give a 2 hour lecture on Australian geography. My only saving grace is that these students (hopefully) know less than me.

    But there we go. Planning would ensure that I scrape through this situation with a little stress and maybe my dignity. Not planning would ensure that something odd is about to happen. Maybe it’ll end up with me getting sent to Australia by the Chinese government, as some sort of British-inspired prison colony thing.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Join us.

      Join us.

      I think there’s a balance. Like, the energy of faith provides the energy, and the organisation provides the chassis?

      And then you drive that sweet, sweet Buick right over everyone’s stupid faces.

      Whoa. I’m tireder than I thought. My honesty’s showi- I mean. Heh.

      How did the Nudity Lecture go? How come you’re lecturing on Australian geography, anyhow?

      • Well, apparently I’m a professor of Australian culture. I’m not sure how exactly that happened, but I get paid handsomely for it, and as of yet I haven’t been shown up as a complete fool. My plan is simply to stay one step ahead of the students… or perhaps just to show DVDs for the whole course. At the moment we’re studying geography. I know where Sydney and Perth are, but that’s about it.

        So I got a tourism DVD and showed it to my class. Apparently it’s mostly about Australia’s nudist beaches… and also drinking culture, which apparently – like Scotland – involves a lot of people getting naked.

        Ah well, it kept their attention for an hour and a half. Tomorrow I might actually have to teach…

        • Simon Smithson says:

          OK. Remember drop bears and hoop snakes, and you’ll be fine. If you need any Q and A type things, let me know.

          Yes. Drunk. Naked. Vaguely racist sometimes. That’s us!

          Oh, probably don’t mention the Cronulla race riots. No one will be impressed.

  19. angela says:

    oh, simon. i love organization and i love lists. in fact, i’ve been spending much of my time lately making lists and lists of words, like all different kinds of coffee, and all different kinds of neckwear, and all different words for “thief.” and i get paid for this. the problem is i’d rather spend my time making lists than writing. (well, sometimes.)

    now you’ve tempted to me into further list-making! 20 goals over 12 weeks – I LOVE IT. i think that short time frame forces you to be very specific and concrete, and to pick goals that you’ll actually accomplish, as opposed to New Year’s resolutions which tend to be vague (“get in shape. write more”) or even year-long goals which tend to be huge (“write a novel”).

    i may have to try this.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I’m so into lists and organising. I think it’s what separates us from the animals. That and Armani Exchange.

      I’m so jealous of getting paid to make lists. It’s like the promised land of employment.

      And I, personally, have so much time for goals. They’re like lists on steroids. You can even combine them into recursive lists of goals of lists of goals… man. It’s like being on crack. I assume. The key is specificity, absolutely.

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