The Zombie List

I have a zombie list. And I don’t mean one filled with Undead (undone?) tasks that keep coming back to eat my brain. I mean a list of things I can do when I am the zombie.

About a year ago, I wrote about delegating small tasks to your future self, suggesting that: “you can probably identify several small tasks that would help you move forward on your highest-priority project but that don’t require your highest level of energy.” I listed things like proofreading and running bibliographic searches as examples of such small tasks that you could group together to do when you weren’t at your best.

That’s not quite what I mean by a zombie list. When I feel like I’m dragging my carcass around and growling inarticulately at the world, I’m not about to sit down to the WorldCat database and construct some complex searches for my current research project. A zombie list should be short and visible, because when you’re feeling like a zombie, you’re not going to necessarily remember where you filed it away. I keep mine on a brightly-colored index card near my desk.

My zombie list has three sections:

  • Tasks
  • Self-Care Directives
  • One Simple Rule


The tasks on my zombie list are simple things that even a zombie could do. These are ongoing or repeated actions, not tasks that once completed won’t reoccur. This is not a to-do list. Some examples include:

  • Empty the paper recycling bin
  • Weed out one folder in the filing cabinet
  • Sort and shred postal mail
  • Delete 10 old emails
  • Collect library books to return

Just a few is probably enough. The idea is to come up with something you can do that will be useful without being too taxing.

Self-Care Directives

These are suggestions that, if followed, can sometimes turn a zombie back into a human being. Things like:

  • Drink water
  • Eat something healthy
  • Go walk outside
  • Stretch

Yes, you say, these are so obvious, why do I need to write them on my list? Because when you’re cranky zombie hungry, sometimes eating something is the last thing you actually think about doing.

One Simple Rule

The last line on my zombie list contains my most essential rule for my zombie self:

Get some sleep, zombie!

What would help you when you’re a zombie? let us know in the comments!

[Creative Commons licensed image by flickr user Digital Sextant]

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