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How to Create the Simplest, Best To-Do List Ever

I love to-do lists and have tried many different kinds, but this is the very best one. Thanks, Selene Santiago, for teaching it to me! Here’s how it works:

Separate your to-do list into these categories:


Use an ACTION word at the start of each item so you know what action you need to take. Examples:

  • EMAIL Selene
  • WRITE research paper outline
  • CALL Ms. Phillips to request letter of recommendation

That’s it. Simple, huh? Here are a few simple tips:

  1. Clear the “today” list each day. There’s no better feeling than getting every thing on your “Today” list done. To this end…
  2. Be realistic about what you can get done in a day. There’s nothing worse than getting a LOT of stuff done in a day and still having ten things on the list. If you think you can’t get everything in your “Today” list done, move it down into the “This Week” list.
  3. If you’re worried about spending too much time on something, set a time goal. Example: WRITE research paper outline (1 hr.) Usually I give myself a little less time than I think it’ll actually take me so I work faster. It becomes a game.

There you have it. The easiest and most effective to-do list ever. Now let’s go get some stuff done!

Having a heard time getting your To Do list started? Here’s a helpful guide to overcoming procrastination.

To Do list(s) dragging you to the ground (and you along with them)? Don’t forget to take a step back and practice mindfulness throughout your college essay process.

100 Brave and Interesting Questions

  1. What’s the toughest decision you made today?

  2. What’s the toughest decision you made this year?

  3. What’s the toughest decision you ever made?

  4. What have you forgotten?

  5. What do you want to be when you grow up?

  6. What’s it like being you right now?

  7. What makes you nostalgic?

  8. If you had two hours left on earth what would you do?

  9. What’s the most beautiful word in the world?

  10. Who makes you laugh more than anyone?

  11. What did your father teach you?

  12. What did your mother teach you?

  13. What’s the best gift you’ve ever given?

  14. Best gift you ever received?

  15. How many times a day do you look in the mirror?

  16. What do you bring most to a friendship?

  17. If 100 people in your age group were selected randomly, how many do you think they’d find leading a happier life than you?

  18. What is or was your best subject in school?

  19. What activity do you do that makes you feel most like yourself?

  20. What makes you feel supported?

  21. Whom do you secretly admire?

  22. What time of the day do you feel the most energetic and what do you usually do in those moments?

  23. What’s something you never leave home without?

  24. What’s a recurring dream you have?

  25. What makes you feel safe?

  26. What’s the best thing that ever happened to you?

  27. What do you want people to say about you once you’re gone?

  28. What’s the coolest thing about science?

  29. What’s the best money you ever spent?

  30. What’s a bad habit you have?

  31. What are you grateful for?

  32. Whom are you envious of?

  33. What’s an image you’ll never forget?

  34. Describe a near-death experience.

  35. If you had a clone, what would you have the clone do?

  36. What’s your idea of Heaven?

  37. What’s your idea Hell?

  38. When did you know?

  39. What can you do better?

  40. When are you most yourself?

  41. What superpower would you most like to have?

  42. If you were granted three wishes, what would you do with the second wish?

  43. What is your actual superpower?

  44. If you won 100 million dollars, what would you buy first?

  45. What’s the best sound in the world?

  46. What’s perfect about your life?

  47. What song do you sing only when you’re alone and what memory does it bring back?

  48. Describe a moment you were so embarrassed you wanted to disappear.

  49. How many times a day do you think about money?

  50. Who has been the biggest influence on you in your relationship to money?

  51. What’s one thing you’re certain of?

  52. Describe one of your colossal failures.

  53. What makes you cringe?

  54. What does your inner voice tell you?

  55. What crime have you considered committing?

  56. What’s great about your mom?

  57. What’s great about your dad?

  58. Which day would you gladly re-live?

  59. What are you awesome at?

  60. What do you want people you meet for the first time to think about you?

  61. When were you most afraid?

  62. What are you terrible at but love to do anyway?

  63. What weapon would you carry during the Zombie Apocalypse?

  64. Which of your five senses would you keep if you could only keep one?

  65. What’s something you love to make?

  66. What do you cook better than anyone?

  67. What do you wish you’d invented?

  68. What would you like to invent?

  69. Out of 100 random people, where would you rank yourself in terms of your intelligence?

  70. Where do you want to be right now?

  71. If you could be someone else for a day who would it be and why?

  72. What makes you feel powerful?

  73. What’s the meanest thing you’ve ever said?

  74. What’s the meanest thing someone has ever said to you?

  75. What three words would you have on your grave stone?

  76. What’s your first thought when you wake up?

  77. What’s one thing you wake up to in the middle of the night worrying about?

  78. If you could tell someone something anonymously, what would it be?

  79. Whom would you like to forgive and forget?

  80. If you could get rid of one of your responsibilities today, what would it be?

  81. What type of person angers you the most?

  82. What is your greatest strength?

  83. What is your worst weakness?

  84. How do you show your love for others?

Extra Brave and Interesting Questions (once trust has been established):

  1. Why are you here in this room right now?

  2. When is a time you forgave someone or were forgiven for something?

  3. What’s the biggest mistake you ever made?

  4. What are you hiding?

  5. What’s your unanswerable question—the question you seem to always be asking yourself?

  6. What are you ashamed of?

  7. What is stopping you?

  8. What’s a secret you have?

  9. How do you secretly manipulate people to get your way?

  10. When was the last time you apologized?

  11. What is the biggest lie you tell yourself?

  12. What’s the moment you left childhood behind?

  13. What’s missing from your life?

  14. Do you believe in a higher power?

  15. What are you ready to let go of?

  16. What are you not saying right now?

Click here for more college essay inspiration.


Writing advice from Neil Gaiman.


Writing advice from Neil Gaiman.

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I could use some right now. Thanks.

I could use some right now. Thanks.

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Top 50 Cheap College Textbook Websites
The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.

— Terry Pratchett (via maxkirin)

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College Essay: Brainstorm | Essay Essentials

Q: How do I begin to write my essay?
A: If you’re reading this, you’ve already begun. On my main website you’ll find some ideas on how to brainstorm and structure your essay.

Q: How long should my essay be?
A: It depends. Your main Common App essay can be up to 650 words (as of November 2013). Your UC essays will add up to 1,000 words combined, and your supplemental essays will vary.

Q: How many essays will I need to write?
A: Around 15 is average. These include the Common App, UC 1, UC 2, plus supplements, which number anywhere from 6-20, depending on the number of schools you apply to.

Q: What should my essay be about?
A: In a word, you.


Q: What are college admissions officers looking for?
They’re looking for the answers to these three questions: 

  1. Who is this person?

  2. Will this person contribute something of value to our campus?

  3. Can this person write?

Q: How do college admissions officers evaluate my essay?
A: Each school has its own criteria and different readers will prefer different elements. Michael Gulotta, former Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at USC, for example, has told me he most looks to the essay to assess a student’s writing ability. But Rick Diaz (Regional Director of Undergrad Admissions at SMU) is less interested in writing ability and more interested in a student’s story.

Q: So which is more important: your story or your writing skill?
A: Both are important. A good story, well told. That’s your goal. 

Q: When should I start writing my essay?
A: Today. Right now.

Q: How do I structure my essay?
A: You’ll learn about two options on this site: Narrative Structure and Montage Structure.

Q: How much do essays matter?
A: It depends on the college, but generally between 10%-30%. Essays tend to matter more for small schools, or schools who look at applications holistically.

Q: If my grades are bad, can I get into Harvard with a great essay?
A: Nope. Schools look at your GPA, course rigor and test scores more than anything. When you’re being compared to other students with similar GPA/SAT scores, that’s when the essays can make or break your chances. Harvard is great, but there are a lot of other awesome schools too. For a list of Colleges That Change Lives, Google “Colleges That Change Lives.” (Really.)

Q: Can a bad college essay negatively affect my application?
A: Yes.