Friday, 30 January 2009

So do you want the good news first? Or the bad news? The bad news? Fine, pessimists! The bad news is that despite my best efforts I haven’t got everything done. I gave it my all, I really did. As well as doing my normal day job, on top of traipsing around the country promoting The To Do List to anyone and everyone I also posted cakes to cousins, bought a new mobile phone, found the password to my e-saver account, bought some shirts that fit me, chased up invoices. Cancelled sim cards, wrote letters of complaint to Debenhams about underpant related issues (can you believe that they actually asked me to send them to them by post?), replied to unanswered email, fixed guttering and much, much more but it still wasn’t enough. Even now as I sit at my desk typing out this here blog I can see the pile of half-read books that needed finishing, the electricity bill that was pinned to the wall in order to remind me to apply for a capped rate and the broken computer scanner that all my attempts to fix it only seemed to make it more rather than less broken than it was before. Now while part of me feels a bit depressed about the fact that I haven’t achieved what I set out to achieve another part of actually feels pretty good because if you look at things from the other way round there is basically a whole lot of stuff that got done this month that wouldn’t have got done had it not been for the list. Viewed like that this can only been seen as an unmitigated success…or at least that’s the way I’ve decided to spin it! Anyway, to conclude this blog I thought that what I might do is finish off with a few comments from readers who have read The To Do List as a way not only of encouraging you to buy the book but also to start a list of your very own!

“Mike, finished it, fantastic. Inspirational! My first hurdle is the list itself... I keep writing bits in rough, afraid to write it "in best"... gulp - will do that next! All the best, Debbie”

“Hi Mike, I picked up "The To Do List" whilst at Heathrow airport at the end of Dec and read it on my first few days on holidays in Central America. One of my new Canadian travel friends was intrigued so I passed it onto her to read. By the end of our trip we had compiled our own to do lists with a plan to check in with one another to monitor our progress. She then gave it to her sister who read it at San Jose in Costa Rica and got chatting to a guy who already had his to do list written but wanted to read the book. So we've sent it off with no knowledge of where it might end up next but thought you might like to know that list mania is breaking out across the world! Anj.”

“Hi Mike, just had to write to say how much i enjoyed the to-do list. I'm always making lists like yours and now you've inspired me to stop making excuses and get on with it! Chris.”

“Hi Mike, I finished your book The To Do List this morning, no mean feat as it's not due to be published for another week. However I am now incredibly sad. Sad, not because I didn't enjoy it but because I didn't want it to end, the sign of a great book if ever there was one. Many thanks for the kick up the proverbial, Jeremy.”

“Hi Mike, thank you for making me feel normal! If you ever have a moment where you feel like you need to get organised again - get a Dymo labeller - BLISS! Tanya.”

So that’s that then. That was my January To Do List. And so now we’re done, why don’t you grab a pen and some paper and get scribbling a list of your own! Go on, you know it makes sense!

Happy list making

Mike x

PS. Feel free to drop me an email via my website ( and keep me up to date with your list making progress.

PPS. If you’d like to read The To Do List – the story of the year I tried to get everything on a 1,277 item to-do list done! – please visit any good bookstore, or try one of these links:

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Before I get started a couple of things for those of you who have been worrying about the state of the garden and my recently nicked mountain bike, (I’m mainly thinking of you, Mrs A. Harries of Barton-Under-Needwood…does no one else read this blog?????). Firstly, yes, Mrs Harris, I did indeed venture back outside to tackle the leaves and collected over a six-hour period a staggering eighteen bags worth of leaf fall from my garden all of which is now lined up at the side of the house waiting for me to find the calendar that the council sent out back in January that tells you when the next green collection is going to be. I have no idea where this stupid council calendar might be and there’s a strong chance that the leaves might stay there until next year. And as for the bike Mrs Harris, yes, the insurance people said that they would cough up for a new one.

Anyway, let’s get down to business. It’s January 28th already! How did that happen? Didn’t we just have Christmas? Wasn’t it New Year’s eve only a couple of weekends ago? This all feels wrong just I still feel like I’m in back-to-work mode! Still, the good news is that I am proud to say that I have had a couple of days of solid To Do Listing. The bad news however is that while all of the stuff that I did badly needed doing none of it was on my January To Do List. For instance I rearranged my bedroom so that you don’t walk into the bed as soon as you walk through the door and in the process discovered all the missing bits from the kid’s Fifi and the Flower Pots play set, hoovered up several tonnes of dust bunnies from the wooden flooring and collected together enough loose change to part-finance a trip to Pizza Express. In addition to this I also backed up my entire computer, logged all of my receipts for my accountant, got the guttering fixed, wrote two articles for national newspapers, spent several hours trying to find out what a LOLCAT was and finished off series 6 of Spooks (how could the writers do that to poor Jo?????). If this was any other time in my life I’d feel quite good about all that I’ve achieved in such a short space of time but sadly it isn’t which means instead that I’ve got a busy couple of days up ahead….

Monday, 26 January 2009

Recently I’ve been doing so much explaining about To Do Lists and their value to the world that I almost feel like I’ve become the leader of some kind of To Do List based cult. Time and time again I’ve been sat in radio and TV station studios announcing to the world: “To Do Lists really can change your life!” have been leaving my lips to the extent that it almost feels like a mantra which it isn’t. It’s just some words that I keep repeating over and over again…wait a second…that is a mantra! Seriously though, it’s not a cult. It’s just a list, a way of encouraging you to remember the all the stuff that’s floating around in your head. Anyway, I say all this in a round about way of introducing today’s topic: gardening.

I am not a natural gardener. In fact I’d go as far as to say that I am very an unnatural gardener. I only like to do gardening when I really, really, really, have to do it and then only for fifteen to twenty-minutes when the sun is shining. Sadly however it turns out that in the real world that most people inhabit you actually have to do the garden all year around unless you want your place to look like a tip. And would you believe that includes gardening in January when it’s cold and wet and your lawn is covered in a deep carpet of dead leaves that have been there since mid-September? It’s wrong I tell you! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! And had it not been for this January list I can honestly say that I don’t think I would’ve ventured out into the garden until April at the earliest. Still, I’m sort of glad that I did because had I not ventured down to the bottom of the garden I would not have discovered that some thieving git and broken into the shed and stolen my mountain bike (a mountain bike that admittedly I hadn’t ridden on for some time and was on another To Do list somewhere else waiting to eBayed). When I called the police and informed them of the crime they asked me when I thought the crime might have taken place. “Somewhere between the middle of September and last night,’ I replied. “It’s hard to be any more accurate than that because I actually only came outside to tidy up the leaves because they were on my January To Do List.” The policeman didn’t seem all that interested in my January To Do List, he just sort of umm and ahhed and took my details. As I put down the phone I wondered if I should go back outside and start raking up the leaves but a small voice inside my head said: “Nah, you’ve had enough excitement for today,” and so I read a book instead.

There’s still an opportunity to win £100 worth of Hodder books at . .

Friday, 23 January 2009

Yesterday I crossed off item 29: “Find the only set of spare house keys that we own so that should my wife and I ever leave the house without our keys we won’t be forced to resort to breaking and entering.” It took me the best part of three hours to locate them (would you believe I found them “hidden” under the mat by the front door) but along the way I also found the back to the DVD remote control, two staplers, the missing strap to my bike helmet, the phone number for a roofer that I wrote down three months ago, the spare car keys, two sets of keys that don’t seem to fit any lock in our house and that neither of us can remember bringing home, my national insurance card, Claire’s missing sunglasses and a two month out of date packet of Percy Pig sweets. The finding of the Percy Pigs was for me particularly bittersweet moment as I have an acute fondness for pig-shaped raspberry-flavoured confectionery and so finding the packet and then realising they were out-of date was a bit like winning the lottery only to realise that I’d missed the claim-by cut off date by a measly day or two. I can’t begin to tell you how long I sat mulling over the question: “Can gone off Percy Pig sweets kill you?” before I finally recalled the time way back in my youth when I ate an out of date chocolate “flavour” heart that had been sent to me by an admirer and spent the whole night suffering with acute stomach pains convinced that I was going to die but too embarrassed to explain to my parents what it was I had eaten.

In other news I have also just purchased a new TV so that’s item 28 ticked off too. Now you might be forgiven for thinking that a bloke buying a new TV isn’t exactly a chore and if you were talking about your everyday normal kind of bloke I’d say you were right. Sadly I am so far from normal that what should in fact be a pleasure actually becomes such a huge pain in the backside involving research on Google and Amazon; the purchase of several month’s worth of What Hi-Fi-Sound and Vision; personal testimonies from anyone I know who has bought a new TV in the last three years; visiting every single electronics shop in a twenty mile radius of my house; boring my wife, friends and family to distraction with the pros and cons of numerous brands of TV; and then finally the purchasing on a new TV from a sales advisor whom I have talked to death about the pros and cons of the TV I’ve finally selected for the minimum of an hour and a half. Anyway, it is done. I made myself and everyone around me miserable in the process but it is done. Now all I have to do is choose a Blu-Ray player to go with it…

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

With all To Do Lists there are always a few items that you put on that even as you scribble them down you know full well they will never, ever get done. And so while it’s highly likely that you’ll phone your auntie Margie, pay the gas bill or even take that jog/power walk that you’ve been talking about for ages it’s highly unlikely that you’ll cure cancer, fill in that on-line application to become a spy that you started filling in after watching the series finale of Spooks or for that matter fill in the one hundred and sixty demands from Facebook asking you to confirm how you know all these people. I tell you all this as a preamble to explaining why despite it being on my January To Do List that there is NO WAY AT ALL that I’m going bother trying to tackle item 20: “Wean youngest daughter off her dummy.”

When Claire and I handed her our youngest daughter her first dummy we knew we both knew that we were opening a can of worms that would one day end up being thrown back at us at high velocity no doubt hitting us on the bridge of our noses and leaving us with a mild concussion. We knew all this because we’d had it the first time round with our eldest daughter who sadly loved her dummy considerably more than she loved us. Had our home ever been on fire resulting in her having to make a decision about which three things she might save I had no doubt that the list would go (in order of importance) like this:
1. Dummy.
2. Mummy.
3. Milky.

Were she to have been offered a fourth choice I have no doubt that I would have been it but with just the three places on offer I have no choice but to accept that I would have been bested (and therefore condemned to a severe crispening) by a two litre bottle of full-fat milk. But anyway, I digress, my point, and I do have one, is that it was murder, absolute murder getting child number one to give up her dummy. We tried coaxing (“Oh, go on give it to us, pretty please!”), we tried bribery (“Give it to us and I’ll by you a sweet shop,”) and we even tried shame (“Look, just give it up okay or you’ll end up with teeth like Bugs Bunny,” but she was completely indifferent to both us and our suggestions and so one night we thought ‘This is stupid,’ and just took it off her. Biggest. Mistake. Ever. I have never heard screaming like it. It was like she was a superhero whose secret ability was to be able to rattle small life forms to death by use of her vocal chords. We handed the dummy back and cowered waiting for the noise to stop. It didn’t. It just carried on. All night. Like a wailing siren of misery whose single aim was to punish us for messing with dummy. We never did it again. Ever. So all we could do was wait until she gave dummy up of her own volition. Thankfully it was only another couple of months and she never looked back even once. But the thing is as much as child number one loved her dummy, child number two loves hers even more.

Monday, 19 January 2009

The last couple of days have been spent doing something that I never do: answering the phone. I don’t know whether it’s a bloke thing or just a me thing but ever since I got married I simply gave up even registering that the home telephone was even ringing. I just tuned it out. The reason for this was (to my mind at least) quite logical: it was never for me. Every time I’d pick up the phone and offer a chirpy hello there would be a short pause (to indicate severe disappointment) before the person at the other end of the line (normally my mother-in-law, my wife’s mates or someone calling from Kitchen’s Direct) would ask to speak to my wife. After a whole year of that kind of abuse (although now I think about it could well have been more a week and a half) I was sufficiently discouraged to give up answering the home phone forever. ‘Ha,’ I thought to myself. ‘From now on the only phone I’ll answer is my mobile one!’ And so that’s what I did for the next ten years until my wife’s moaning about how I never answer the phone reached critical mass one evening when she completely lost the plot at me just because she’d had to travel all the way from the loft to answer a phone in the living room that was ringing less than three feet away from my right hand.

The first call came at just after 7.30 a.m. on Saturday morning. Now rather than thinking to myself, ‘What kind of monster calls a human being at half seven in the morning?’ instead I leapt out of the shower (that’s right I was in the shower), grabbed a towel and raced downstairs to answer the phone.

Me: Hello?
My Mother-in-law: Oh, that’s strange! You don’t normally answer the phone. Nothing’s wrong is it? It’s not the kids is it? They’re not ill are they? Or is it Claire? She’s all right isn’t she? Although she did have that cold didn’t she? Colds can be nasty…especially this time of year. My old next door but one neighbour—back when we lived on Sanderson Street—well auntie…or it may well have been a cousin died from a nasty cold…although it was spring when it happened which I know isn’t technically winter but y’know…still it is dangerous.
Me [Shivering]: Claire’s fine. I’m just answering the phone because Claire says I never answer the phone. I’ll go and get her for you.
My Mother-in-law: Oh no, don’t bother, I’ll speak to her later.
Me: Later?
My Mother-in-law: Yes, later.
Me: If you can speak to her later then why are you phoning her now?
My Mother-in-law: In case she was passing by the phone.
Me: You called on the off chance that she might be passing the phone?’
My Mother-in-law: Well you never know do you?
Me: But what if she isn’t passing a phone?
My Mother-in-law: Then she won’t answer it will she?
Me: So basically what you’re saying is that you regularly dial our number with nothing to say based on the statistical likelihood of your daughter being in the vicinity of a phone?
My Mother-in-law: You’re in one of your funny mood again. Tell Claire I’ll call back.

And this, ladies and gentleman, illustrates with perfect alacrity the reason why once January is over I will no longer be answering my home telephone.

Friday, 16 January 2009

For those of you who have been worrying these past few days about my bee predicament (I’m mainly thinking of you, Mrs A. Harries of Barton-Under-Needwood) I’m pleased to say that having lived with them for some months now yesterday (and so far today) I’ve been completely bee free. Part of me likes to think that this is a vindication of the To Do List belief that if you leave most things that need doing long enough eventually they will sort themselves out but mostly I put it down to the Mrs playing Dido’s new album Safe Trip Home on constant loop. Bored to tears by this woman’s mithering they have either moved house or fallen asleep until the winter or Dido (whichever comes sooner) is over.

To Do List wise I have been having a very productive couple of days. I have for instance now ticked off To Do List item six: “Buy shirts that fit,” and I now have not just one but three shirts that I can button up all the way to the top without recourse to bulging eye syndrome or indeed keeling over. I have also chased up an invoice that I have spent several months avoiding because I knew it would be nothing other than a big fat pain in the backside. How did I know this? Well for instance take this piece of correspondence I received from them a while ago:
“The attached Purchase Order has not been sent to the Supplier as Saturn does not have a suitable email address. Please print and post/fax or email the attached Purchase Order to the Supplier as soon as possible.”

And how did I receive this purchase order which was sent directly from the accounts department that generated it? Would that be via an email address that they claimed that they didn’t have? Yes it would indeed! Is it any wonder that in the face of such “computer says no” mentality that I was far from excited at the prospect of chasing up my cash? Anyway, because it was on my list I chased them up and having forwarded, faxed, emailed and screamed the various bits of information that they claimed that they hadn’t received I finally took receipt of an official notification yesterday that yes, they would indeed pay me. Once I get the cheque I’m thinking of spending every single penny of it on Choco Leibniz biscuits (the Rolls Royce of the chocolate biscuit world) in a bid to make the effort involved in getting the cheque seem worth it because I’m telling you now if I have to spend it on once again off-set my every increasing electricity and gas direct debits I may well lose the plot.

Don't forget, there's still a chance to win £100 of free books here: