LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — J. Alfred Prufrock measured out his life in coffee spoons, I document mine in checkmarks. These marks live in my day timer, which I buy each year at Office Depot. In early January, I write down everyone’s birthdays for the year, highlighting them in yellow so I don’t miss them by mistake. Then I write down my tasks for the first of each month: load online coupons, invoice for columns, clean washer, check bank accounts. Then the checkmarks begin, which each day’s tasks written down with my No. 2 BIC pencil.
It’s almost embarrassing to admit how much satisfaction I get out of checkmarking off a task. Sometimes, if one checkmark is taking too long to accomplish, I’ll do a quick one, like watering the plants, so I get a quick mark and feel like I’m reaching my goals. The hardest checkmarks to obtain are of course the ones for writing. I get one checkmark for each hour I write and I try to get four of them each day. The working out checkmark is another one that’s hard won, but more often than not these days I get to tick that one off too.
If you look closely, the marks themselves are suggestive of how pleased I am to have completed the task. Taking out the garbage, while, yes, important, only gets a piddly little mark since it only takes 5 minutes. But getting that fourth hour done? Especially on a Friday afternoon? Hello, soaring mark, a quick but satisfying angle down, then up, up and away.
While a good day is one in which all my tasks and jobs get marks, I sometimes get pleasure out of not completing everything. Cleaning the toilets, that’s one that gets missed most often. Every Tuesday, I dutifully write that task down and at least every second week, I don’t accomplish it. While I know in my head this job only takes 15 minutes, and so could result in a relatively quick checkmark, I so hate to clean toilets that I’m far happier to have an incomplete checkmark day than bend over the bowl and scrub.