This is a project.
You have to have a plan.
First, do you have a snow-shoveling partner? If so, now is the time to discuss your expectations: before you begin, not half-way into it or, Satan forbid, after it’s over and all you have left are pain and recrimination.
Is your partner a perfectionist or a halfasser? Find out. If you intend to shovel down to the pavement, even if it means relentless chopping, and your parter is going to shovel until he or she hits packed snow and shrugs because it’s too hard, you need to know.
Define your parameters. Do you want a narrow path to stumble down until the first thaw, or do you want to use your whole sidewalk, the whole winter? Mark these areas so your halfasser knows what you expect. Remember to leave space for recycling and garbage bins. If you don’t clear the area now, it will never happen. You will tell yourself you will handle it later, but you won’t. (See above: pain and recrimination.)
Side note: if you are dating someone, it’s a good idea to asses his or her snow-removal ethic now to avoid a painful breakup and dividing of assets later. Freshly evaluate the relationship on the basis of your assessment.
Check the prevailing weather conditions. Dress accordingly. Layer your clothing to ensure that you will be boiling within 30 minutes of beginning, no matter the temperature, and will wind up shoveling bare-headed and bare-handed. Important tip: don’t put your discarded scarf, mittens, and hat somewhere they will be covered with snow, not to be found until spring.
Take pictures. Do not allow your child or children or partner or dog or cat or city chickens to step on any of the freshly-fallen snow that is in the shot. You need pristine images of this momentous event, and your child will need the memory of having to wait for what seems like hours before it can play.
By all means, set a stopwatch before you begin. You will need to know how long you worked so you can complain/brag about it on all forms of social media, especially Facebook, because no one else in the city (or the nation) has it as bad as you/is as awesome. You also need to know how long you were at this activity so that you can replace the calories with beer.
(For instance: it took me 1 hour, 34 minutes and some odd seconds to complete the steps and walkway. In Weight Watchers terms, that’s slightly over one beer. I will need to shovel for approximately one more year to make quota.)
If you have a child who wants to help but is not quite of age to truly be of assistance, dress it warmly and chain it to the porch.
Hydrate. Jam that water bottle right into a snow bank. Just don’t shovel over it (see above note).
About a quarter of the way into a major snow fall, you will find yourself considering giving up. Resist. Think “shark in water.” Or Dory, if that helps. Just keep swimming. You have to get over that initial feeling of “I’m going to die,” and find the resolve to continue. It gets easier as you see progress, but be warned: there is another wall, and it comes about three quarters of the way through. You will be convinced that it’s all over, you can’t finish, and you are a miserable loser. Miserable loser you may be, but you can do this. Worry about your personality flaws and inability to find work later.
Save touch-up work for the end. Resist all temptation to remover “rollers” as they happen. This will save you time and murderous rage. In the same vein, resist the urge to redo neighbors’ halfassery. This job is about resistance and perseverance.
There are rewards along the way, especially if it has stopped snowing, and the sky is a crystalline blue that you usually only see over soaring mountain peaks in the west. Pause to watch the breeze blow sparkling crystals through the air; feel the coldness fill your lungs, refreshing you and reminding you of bitter beautiful mornings at your grandparents’ farmhouse; uncover the scent of peppermint and oregano as you near your garden beds; watch your child struggle against its bonds and hear its cries of “Mama!” wafting lightly through the crisp air.
It’s good to be alive.