Number 1 on my to-do list for the new year is to stop making to-do lists. They are not working for me.

The problem has been that I generally put things on my to-do lists that I am very unlikely, in point of fact, to actually do. These items require effort and follow-through and occasionally looking at the list to remember what precisely is on it.

(Of course, first you actually have to find the list, which you’ve put in a safe place so you wouldn’t lose it. Which is actually Number 6 on the to-do list — “Don’t lose this list” — and Number 7 as well — “Don’t put any lists in a place that’s so safe you won’t remember what that place is.” It also could be Number 12, “Don’t hide the list where you’ve hidden the chocolate, because not only will you not find it, but it may have bugs crawling over significant list items.”)

These to-do items that require so much effort are complex, demanding items like “finish writing the novel.” That generally comes right after the complex, demanding item about “start writing the novel.”

My current to-do list also has on it items that are probably too general, like “be nice to dogs.” How can you cross that out if you don’t know how many dogs that means? Or if it refers to a specific breed or does it just mean never saying the word “labradoodle?”

So what happens is, these long-term to-dos stay on the list for months and even years, building little lofts with eat-in kitchens near the top of the list. Some of the items on the list even try to join the co-op board, although, so far, they have not been able to get enough votes to make it.

After several months on the to-do list, the items become even bolder and start staring back at me with a self-satisfied smirk. You can’t cross us out, buddy. We belong here. They start laughing among themselves while smoking cigarettes and blowing smoke in my face even though they know that smoking is banned inside my list, although you are allowed to eat pretzel nuggets outside the perimeter.

While the to-do lists are full of items I will never do, they never seem to include the stuff I actually do, the stuff I can cross off a list most any day, giving me that real satisfaction of knowing I haven’t spent the whole day watching YouTube videos of raccoons on a trampoline.

So if I’m actually going to do a to-list for 2014, it’s going to include items like this:

  • Get up.
  • No, really, get up.
  • OK, stop hitting the snooze button.
  • All right, maybe just one more time.
  • Brush teeth. With toothpaste
  • First, squeeze toothpaste out of tube.
  • Put cap back on toothpaste tube.
  • Enough with the exercise. Time to eat breakfast, which should be balanced nutritionally if I can’t find where I’ve hidden the chocolate.
  • Decide to stop making to-do lists.