My System: “The Daily Mirror”

(Illustration: Kat Borosky)

Who: Rachel Simon, novelist, memoirist and speaker.

System: Communicate daily to-do list tasks via sticky notes left on the bathroom mirror.

How does it work? “If there’s something I need to remember, I write it on a yellow sticky note and put it on the bathroom mirror so I have to see it. ‘Mail check on Wednesday’; ‘Review my Powerpoint.’ I wrote a sticky note this morning that said ‘Call Margit.’ “

Well, I’m glad you did. So how does this system work with your husband? “My husband is also creative (he’s an architect) and we’re secluded in separate studios for good part of day. Our house often has the feel of an artist colony. So this way we’re able to have those household conversations you need to have, like ‘would you reread blog post I wrote?’ Or ‘when are you going to work on broken toilet?’ Or even, ‘remind me to tell you about conversation I had with my father.’ “

Does he respond? “Sometimes the way he’ll respond is that he’ll write something right on the yellow sticky. Sometimes he’ll communicate with a new yellow sticky. Sometimes he’ll even send me an email entitled, “The Daily Mirror.”

Do you add deadlines? “Usually they do have deadlines, but we don’t always adhere to them.”

Any drawbacks to this system:  “Laziness. Sometimes we’ve already have taken care of whatever I wrote. I might get lazy and not take off that yellow sticky. I might leave it up for a week.”

Or, you might avoid having conversations? “Oh yeah, there are all these unspoken ways my husband will tell me he’s unhappy by leaving up a sticky. Or he’ll leave it somewhere else, like on the sink, rather than throwing it away.”

Do you ever use any electronic systems for this kind of stuff? ”I guess I do use Google Calendar for my speaking engagements or private teaching, when there’s a specific meeting place and time I have to be. I use the stickies if I have simple tasks: phone calls to make or checks to mail. Using an electronic reminder for that stuff seems like ‘oh you’re watering the plants — why are you using a firehose?’ “

I’m gathering you still like to do a lot of things by hand. “I still write my books by hand. For years I’ve been using spiral-bound notebooks with a Parker pen. I can date that back to my 15th birthday when I went to England as exchange student. The family I lived with gave me a Parker pen with my name on it. I never had a fancy pen before. I used it for years until it got lost, then I just started buying Parker pens. I still like clocks with faces, watches with faces. My husband and I are both still very analog and I refuse to get an iPhone. I love dictionaries and thesauruses with pages. I refuse to use GPS. I still remember phone numbers. I do some hospice volunteering at an Alzheimer’s facility so I’m around people who’ve forgotten everything. It’s a gift to remember. I read the obituaries every week, so I will write a real sympathy card. I’ll buy a real card and I’ll mail it, with a real stamp.”

“Which isn’t to say I’m totally no tech — I use Twitter every day and I have a blog. You know, when the photograph started they thought it would be the end of painting. That didn’t happen, painting just changed.”

** Rachel Simon is the author of several books including the best-selling memoir, Riding the Bus with My Sister (made into a CBS movie starring Rosie O’Donnel) and her new book, the New York Times bestseller, Beautiful Girl. Learn more about Rachel on her site ( where she also has some great tips on writing.**

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4 Responses

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  2. AdriannaDufay

    I love this. My husband and I have a similar system with a giant chalkboard in the middle of our kitchen. We say “Put it on the board.”

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