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A to-do list for beginning the new academic year.

I AM A HUGE FAN OF TO-DO LISTS. I grew up making such lists when others were busy learning more marketable skills, such as sewing and crafting. My children grew up with to-do lists and use them today in their successful careers. And I continue to use them daily, savoring the pleasure of crossing off each task as it is completed. There is great pleasure to be had from small accomplishments and gestures--including completing this editorial in time for the deadline!

My success at publishing large numbers of papers in nursing and health care journals can surely be attributed to the writing to-do lists I prepare each week. In fact, professional to-do lists are responsible for most of what I accomplish long term and day to day.

Unfortunately, I never wrote a game-changing book on checklists, such as Gawande's Checklist Manifesto. This book is masterful. Gawande tells us that the complexity of modern life makes the use of checklists essential. They are especially valuable, he tells us, for improving the quality of health care delivery, reducing medical errors, and saving lives.

Well, the checklist I present here will not save anyone's life. But it will help you become a better academic citizen, teacher, and scholar. Here is my to-do list for beginning a new academic year.

1. Dust off all course syllabi. Remove all references, except classics, that were published prior to 2001 (the 10-year rule applies here), and add new 2011 references. Be sure your syllabus includes some research references, not just textbooks.

2. Dedicate 20 minutes per day to your writing. Remember, writing is like exercising. It must become a routine, so that you will feel guilty when you do not do it.

3. Manage your energy, especially if you are tempted by the coffee pot at 3 PM. Take the quiz provided by Schwartz and McCarthy to see if you are headed for an energy crisis. If so, resolve to do something to change course and manage your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy.

4. Meet your new colleagues and your old ones. Academia can be socially isolating. We bond with our computers, especially when we are not in the classroom or teaching clinical groups. I confess: I love the solitude of the academic life and love interacting with my computer. Left to my own devices I could easily cross the line to Internet addiction. If you share these characteristics, be sure to go out of your way to welcome colleagues to the new year.

One thing I have learned from years of making to-do lists is that they must always be manageable. My list--four steps to start the new academic year--is manageable. Now, if I follow my own advice and refer to this to-do list, I am certain the new academic year will be positive and productive.


Gawande, A. (2009). The checklist manifesto: How to get things right. New York: Metropolitan Books.

Schwartz, T., & McCarthy, C. (2007, October). Manage your energy, not your time. Harvard Business Review. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School.


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Title Annotation:FROM the Editor
Author:Fitzpatrick, Joyce J.
Publication:Nursing Education Perspectives
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2011
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