Getting Sidetracked

I’ve always had a problem with getting sidetracked from things I need to do, and I’ve been trying to combat it for years.

I still remember one early attempt I made to overcome this tendency.

Years ago, in college, I used a designated notebook to not only keep track of class assignments but also all of my personal errands and responsibilities. But I kept listing tasks and then not getting around to them; as time passed, most of these items became more and more urgent.

One day, frustrated with myself, I planned out my schedule down to the minute in an attempt to fit in all my long-overdue responsibilities.

I no longer have it, but I remember it well (you’ll see why in a moment) and it looked something like this:

  • 7:00 am — wake up
  • 7:05 am — eat breakfast
  • 7:20 am — finish all previous readings for English class, including extra credit assignment
  • 8:20 am — shower
  • 8:35 am — get dressed
  • 8:45 am — leave for work (bring campus library book, paycheck and pants to return with receipt!)
  • 8:55 am — stop at bank on way to train and deposit paycheck
  • 9:05 am — buy more subway tokens before boarding train
  • 9:35 am — get off train; stop to return pants on way to office
  • 10:00 am to 12:00 pm — work my shift
  • 12:05 pm — leave work for class; pick up contact lens cleaner at drugstore on way to subway
  • 12:15 pm — take train to school; while walking to classroom building after, call dentist to make appointment
  • 12:45 pm to 2:00 pm — English class
  • 2:00 pm to 2:35 pm — lunch
  • 2:40 pm to 3:55 pm — study in library for astronomy test; return late book and pay overdue fees
  • 4:00 pm to 5:15 pm — astronomy class; afterwards, sign up for Thursday’s study group

You get the idea. While many people make to-do lists, I doubt many of them (especially college students) make one as detailed as mine. I laid out my day in a way that really was overkill. Even I recognize that now.

But the worst part? I had scrawled this across the top of that day’s entry:


That is literally what I wrote, word for word — big, bold letters and all.

See, I knew myself and my ability to get easily sidetracked, so I wanted to make sure that my major responsibilities and the odd little chores I had been postponing for too long would get done.

My goal with this in-depth schedule and DO NOT DEVIATE command to myself was that maybe, just maybe, I could fit it all into one day — hectic though it would be — and just get it all done. Finally scratch all of those pending tasks off my list. Finally make up for all the times I’d let myself get sidetracked, leaving these things to “another day” — well, today was going to be that day!

Why do I remember all this so well? For two reasons, really. First of all, I actually don’t think I got to everything on my actual list. I don’t recall the details now, but I do remember feeling sheepish about having my militaristic plan fail just as easily as my previous, well-mannered to-do lists had.

But, most importantly, I remember this list because some time later, my best friend happened to see it in my notebook one day while we were having lunch on campus.

“What is this? Do not deviate from schedule?! Oh my God!” she roared with laughter.

And then proceeded to read it to everyone else who was eating with us in the dining hall.

“Do not deviate” was quite the hit at lunch that day, let me tell you. And no amount of explaining on my part could lessen everyone’s response.

I was embarrassed at the time, but now find it to be a funny story — and we still laugh about it whenever it comes up.

So I guess my point with all of this is…hmm, I actually think I’ve gotten a little sidetracked with my own story here! See, I told you I had a problem! My point was…OH! Yes. I got it now.

My point is, I used to try to outsmart my tendency to get easily sidetracked. Now, though, I try to accept it for what it is. Even though I’ll still feel guilty about it (but am working on that, too) I remind myself that the major stuff will get done; as for the intermediate-level things, I’ll get to it when I get to it.

Deviation allowed.

Note: This post was based on the writing prompt “side” as part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday organized by LindaGHill. We were allowed to use the word on its own or we could add it to the start or end of a word; I liked that flexibility and when “sidetracked” came to me, I decided to go with it!


  1. Aha! This reminds me of my oldest step-daughter! We call her “Julie Cruise Director” and the itinerary Queen. 🙂 A rigid schedule rarely takes into account the flexibility of daily life. I really enjoyed this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Ha, I like that “cruise director” nickname! You’re so right — we can’t control things like this, it leaves no room for the unexpected. As they say, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans!


  2. I can relate to some degree. The sidetracking–yes; the sense of needing to get everything scheduled and figured out–YES!!!! I never made a detailed schedule like with the timetable, but I had to-do lists that were totally unreasonable, and yet I somehow expected to get it all done. Now I try to choose just a few things that are important each day. And I’m learning to say “no” to more things so I don’t have so much to do in the first place. I am still not there, but I am becoming a little less stressed. Thanks for this post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi there wow I would have died of embarrassment I think. But you are not alone with lists like that: Done that ~ got the t-shirt (No noone every saw though I am outing myself here 🙂 ). In the end though I came to the same conclusion: Just relax. Important things will be done in due time and one day I will learn not to do them in the last minute. And funnily more and more gets done….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that you’re a fellow list-maker, too — and I’m happy for you that no one saw yours. 🙂 I like what you said about how we can actually get more done in time once we ease up and accept it’ll all work out…good point!


      1. I think that is something that comes with age. I’m in my mid-forties and had quite a run in life with difficult situations and people to deal with. But once you realise you got through it ~ with scars and problems but you got through it ~ you do not worry so much about stuff anymore. Most things in life sort themselves out if you sit back and let it unfold itself. That takes a lot of pressure away and then you can do more of what you want much easier. I’m still a list maker but use gadgets now 🙂 To-Doist is great :-). Take care and have a wonderful week.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve done that, and failed miserably.

    A few years ago, i gave myself permission to do only things that brought me joy. It really helped. There can be joy in even the most mundane things, if I look for it.

    I’m more relaxed, now, even though I make far fewer lists (this is the first time I’ve been camping without extensive to-pack and to-do lists – and nothing of major import was forgotten.

    May you continue learning how to accept yourself as-is and indulge your tendency to flit. I like having a variety of projects going at once, because it helps me to not only dance between, but I can have high and low intensities, long and short-term, recurring and one-time options, and choose to engage with those that best fit the current circumstances in which I find myself.

    Liked by 1 person

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