To-do lists are bad math. 

Each item on a to-do list doesn’t equal one item, it equals TEN. A to-do list with three things on it, takes 30 steps to accomplish it. It’s just bad math.

Last week I got pulled over by the police.

At the time, I stopped fully at a stop sign, and proceeded driving the speed limit in the school zone. His lights came on and I pulled over.

The day was already harried and now I faced the dreaded, young-officer inquisition.

I rolled down my window. He leaned in. The car smelled like spilled milk sitting in the sun. He pulled back slightly.

“Hi Ma’am. Do you know your tags are expired? Your tags are from 2012.”

“Oh. Um, well I usually buy them for two years and then don’t think about it. I thought I bought them but maybe I didn’t?”

“Can I see your licence and registration please.”

I handed him my stuff. He disappeared to do his police typing.

“Yes – it says your tags are up to date until 2014. Any idea what happened to them?”

I wanted to laugh because it was like asking what I ate for lunch on Tuesday or when was my last tetanus shot. Instead I held my breath and made it look like I was thinking, even though inside my head there was a void that could fit the space shuttle.

“No. Maybe they fell off?”

“No ma’am. Those stickers don’t fall off.”

“Right.” I had no idea where they were because he was asking me about something that might have happened 15 months ago. My memory storage banks are filled with this year’s taxes, three kids dentist’s appointments, my husband’s shift schedule, drop off, pick up, my own clients, groceries and keeping a toddler from wiping her face on my shirt.

“Well, make sure you go and get them replaced.”

“Thank you officer. I will.”

Four days later, I remembered I still needed to replace my tags. I added it to my to-do list.

The next day I decided to get that item done.

  1. I googled Service Ontario, packed up my two year old, and drove there.
  2. I had to park 200 metres away.  I grabbed the baby, my licence, my phone and my keys.
  3. I waited in line for 17 minutes.
  4. The teller said no problem but I needed my registration and ownership papers as well.
  5. I cursed myself, I returned to the car with the baby, dropped any excessive stuff, grabbed the papers and returned to the line with my toddler on my hip.
  6. I waited again. Approached a different teller who informed me that the tags were $7. I realized upon the last trip, I dropped my wallet in the car and only took my licence and registration.
  7. I walked back with the baby. She told me she had to pee. I got her in the car seat rushed back to the house to find it was too late.
  8. I cleaned up the baby.
  9. Took out the car seat and cleaned it.
  10. Put everything back in the car.
  11. I went inside and made a coffee.

I still don’t have my tags.

You might say this whole problem was because I wasn’t prepared or should have been smarter about bringing everything into Service Ontario but this wasn’t the only time this has happened.

  • Have you ever tried to change a pre-approved payment over the phone? It involves faxing something to middle earth and then waiting for the sun to rise on the third planet.
  • Try correcting a cell phone bill without being shuttled to three different people; each one requesting your verbal password that you don’t know and then retelling your tale each time to someone that doesn’t give a shit.
  • Getting passports done? Plan on two weeks in paperwork purgatory with attached mugshots.
  • Having friends over for dinner on the weekend? Start cleaning and shopping Tuesday and remember to have a shower before they arrive.

In our chaotic world of processes, rules, schedules and governing bodies we are slowly being crushed  by bad math.

My new system is to write one thing down for the day. Just one and take it to completion. Today I will get my tags.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

What takes you ten steps even though it’s listed as one?

UPDATE: Later this same day…

My one thing.