In Praise of Seasonal To-Do Lists

A few months ago, I told you all about my New York summer bucket list. I had arrived at the end of June 2018 feeling like I was wasting the sunshine alone in my (admittedly very comfortably air-conditioned) room. And so I made a list of all the warm-weather things I wanted to do in and around the city, and I started checking things off.

I went to beaches and concerts, saw art and outdoor movies, drank frozen drinks and watched baseball and wandered around various parks. I didn’t get to every item on my list, but I got admirably close, and by the end of August I felt like I had drunk every drop out of those brief moments when it is warm and bright and free in New York City.

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Then fall — my favorite season — rolled in, and I found myself getting sucked into old patterns. Days off quickly disappeared into the abyss of laundry and groceries and Netflix. So I did what I do: I started another list, and I checked things off. I picked apples and toured a cemetery and went on a road trip and looked at more art. And when winter started to creep in, I started another note, this one full of cozy indoor activities to brighten up the long, frozen months of hazy grey.

So I come to you know, my friends, to sing the praises of the seasonal to-do list, for it has changed my life. A wish list is perhaps a more apt name for it, since I think these things work best when they are aspirations of fun and not self-imposed chores. See, even when I don’t check everything — or even most things — off, I find that just having the list makes me think about my time differently. Free hours abound with possibilities, and while I might still choose to spend them with Netflix and a onesie and something hot in a mug, that in itself is a choice to be deliberate about how I fill my time.

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I find myself appreciating this city and all it has to offer more, exploring new facets of my neighborhood and far flung corners of the city and its surroundings that would otherwise be untouched. It’s fun to play tourist in your hometown: It makes you appreciate why you moved here in the first place. And in a city with such a unfathomable plethora of options, narrowing it down to a few select priorities can help stave off the decision paralysis that comes from being overwhelmed by too much of a good thing.

Also, it’s important to note that while my to-do list tilts toward the cultural and exploratory, yours might lean more “Netflix and chill” — with movies you want to watch, shows you want to binge, projects you want to tackle, cakes you wish to bake. Your list is yours, to do with as you choose. The point is in the making, and not so much in the checking off.  The purpose of the writing down is to make you think about how you spend, as the late Mary Oliver called it, “your one wild and precious life.”

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Here’s what’s on my list for winter. I don’t expect to check off all my to-do’s (although I’ve made a small dent already!), but history shows that I’ll have fun in the attempt. I hope you’ll share yours!

Zelda’s Winter 2019 To-Do List

“Andy Warhol, from A to B and Back Again” at the Whitney Museum

“Lucio Fontana: On the Threshold” at The Met/The Met Breuer

“Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future” at the Guggenheim

“Harry Potter: A History of Magic” at the New York Historical Society

See all the Best Picture nominees

Ice skating

Candlelight yoga class at Shambhala Yoga and Dance Center

Drinks at the Eataly Birreria rooftop pop-up

Bake bread

Roast a chicken

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