You have a to-do list. A monster you’ve been feeding for years, kept under the bed and occasionally pulled out for a mild shaving, much like a pocket yak.

That list is the epitome of Darwinism, having evolved over the years (decades?) and jumped across machines, with some entries essentially unchanged from when you scratched their great-great-ancestors on your Palm Pilot, and it contains echoes of all your interests, pursuits and concerns across most of your adult life.

The big ticket items are mostly done: Buy house; furnish it; set aside cash for a rainy day; make sure the kids will inherit your pension fund; go places; buy piano.

Then there’s the recurring stuff: Learn new things; bootstrap yourself every couple of years; read voraciously; take photographs, not mediocre snaps; write daily; listen to new music; check up on people from time to time.

The rest is the boring stuff, the ones you check off or move forward week after week: Meet with John about the facilities project; buy cables; send notes on yesterday’s presentation; write a product spec; review code; meet with this week’s All-Singing, All-Dancing Vendor.

Somewhere in the middle is the important stuff. The ones that fall into the cracks of everyday life and that you hardly even notice – until you realize they actually were on the list, but you moved them down.

There’s a lot more to be said about to-do lists (and yes, I do maintain one – painstakingly so, in fact, largely work-related), but the important thing is that you have them on hand to make sure you can pick out the important stuff and act on it.

And that’s the real challenge – figuring out the important stuff. There’s always room for improvement, especially where it concerns the “check up on people from time to time” thing.

Considering that someone I hadn’t spoken with in person since 2007 is now gone, messaging her a month ago to have lunch clearly wasn’t enough, and that’s not something you can tackle with a to-do list.