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Coffee on the Deck
by Moira Allen

March 15, 2012:
Spring Cleaning

While I realize that some folks are still looking at snow, rain, sleet, and tornadoes, on my own deck today it felt more like summer than spring. Trees are starting to blossom, daffodils are blooming, birds are singing -- and a squirrel looked totally shocked to reach the top of the steps and find a human sitting on "his" deck.

Dawn is amongst the "snowed under," not with cold, white stuff but with work -- so I offered to take on the editorial this week. And what with all that sunshine and birdsong and pollen -- er, I mean, lovely blossoms -- it seems the perfect time to talk about spring cleaning.

Specifically, I'm finding it's time to "spring clean" my "to-do" list. To say my list is "cluttered" is an understatement. It isn't just cluttered, it's clogged -- with projects that never seem to go away. They just hang on the list, month after month and, in some cases, year after year.

It would be nice to be able to say, "Well, just dump them," but it's not always that simple. Many of these projects actually mean a lot to me; they are things that I really want to accomplish. But for one reason or another, they repeatedly take the back burner, every time something more urgent or more profitable or... OK, let's admit it, something easier comes along.

So this spring, I'm making a commitment to clean off major sections of my perpetual to-do list. Instead of putting the more minor, short-term projects on hold again and again, I've decided to take what might seem the counter-intuitive step of putting some longer-term, more important tasks on hold instead. Not forever, not even for a long time -- but long enough to clean off some of those other tasks, once and for all.

The concept that has been motivating me is the idea that I would like some of these projects to be behind me, not ahead of me. I want to move them into the category of "achievements," rather than mere wishful thinking. Many of these projects are more personal in nature -- not so much profitable as fun, or meaningful to me -- and that seems to be the sort of project that always gets shelved in favor of "important" work. Quite simply, I've grown tired of having some of these projects "hanging over my head" -- I want them to be in my past, not my future.

My first step is to get organized. Now, normally, I tend to be, if anything, over-organized -- I actually enjoy tasks like sorting files! But these projects have piled up, so to speak, all over my computer; pictures in this file, notes in another section, references in a third, and so on. I came to realize that one reason so many of these projects never got done (or rather, never got started) was the sheer overwhelming prospect of trying to pull everything together in one place.

So I'm setting up a directory of "project" bins on my computer, by going through my files and simply dumping everything that relates to a specific project into its designated "bin" (i.e., folder). In theory, when I reach the point of sitting down and tackling a specific project, all the elements I need should be in one place. Also in theory, that should be true of all the projects on the list, so that I can choose any one I wish, based on its interest or importance rather than on its level of difficulty.

Will it work? Well, spring has only just begun, and so has my spring-cleaning. But it seems well worth a try. And if you, like so many writers, find yourself with a to-do list that persistently resists becoming a "well done" list, maybe it's time to try a bit of spring-cleaning of your own!

Just don't forget to take some time to go listen to the birds and enjoy the daffodils!

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Copyright © 2012 Moira Allen

This article may be reprinted provided that the author's byline, bio, and copyright notice are retained in their entirety. For complete details on reprinting articles by Moira Allen, please click HERE.

Moira Allen is the editor of, and has written nearly 400 articles, serving as a columnist and regular contributor for such publications as The Writer, Entrepreneur, Writer's Digest, and Byline. An award-winning writer, Allen is the author of eight books, including Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer, The Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals, and Writing to Win: The Colossal Guide to Writing Contests. In addition to, Allen hosts, a growing archive of articles from Victorian periodicals, and The Pet Loss Support Page, a resource for grieving pet owners. She lives in Maryland with her husband and the obligatory writer's cat. She can be contacted at editors "at"

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