I love making lists. And I mean, I really love making lists. I don’t discriminate against types of lists, either. I’ll use pen and paper, apps, and everything in between to track my day-to-day. I start my day the same way every day. And I do mean, every day. If you’re a lover of lists, you’re also likely a lover of habits and routine. Each morning, seven days a week, I sit down with a fresh page in my current notepad and make a to-do list.
Some people may find it to be overkill, but having both digital and physical to-do lists helps me feel in control of my day. For work, we use Asana, my holy grail of all organization apps. Each morning, when I sit down with my fresh, clean paper, I write down all the tasks outlined in my Asana for the day. Then I move on to my inbox where I add additional to-dos for any “must-complete” email tasks that day. I highly recommend this if you’re someone who struggles with getting to inbox zero. It’s hard to prioritize your email when just staring at a screen. But by scanning it and making note of the most important and urgent correspondences on paper, you’ll find you stay more on top of it altogether. Next, I move on to my “household” to-dos. Yes, I write down everything I want to do that day around the house, even if it’s as simple as emptying the dishwasher. And lastly, my self-care to-dos. Do I want to paint my nails today? Add it to the list. Is it time to deep condition my hair? Add it to the list. Having one large master list of every single thing I want to accomplish throughout the day helps me make sure that I’m not neglecting any one area.
And it is absolutely gratifying — lists help me plan my workload, create a sense of control and I never tire of that satisfying feeling of crossing something off, even if it’s just marking off the task of taking a shower. There is something powerful when we put what we need to do on a piece of paper.
In a culture with a surfeit of choices, lists can be a way to coalesce and conquer. A list helps you discern and progress with a clearer, lighter head. Lists allow us to clarify our thoughts and take the weight off our minds. Lists, in a sense, help liberate ourselves by creating a sense of order and fulfillment.
But it’s not just daily to-do lists that create this sense of balance and accountability. List making can provide the same benefits we receive from journaling. Feeling swamped with things to do leads to procrastination, avoidance and stress. Writing lists is a great way to clear your mind, and get the thoughts out of your head and down on paper. If you’re like me, writing lists also helps improve your memory. I always keep an Evernote note on my phone for grocery lists, Target runs, inspirational quotes, podcast ideas, quarterly goals, pretty much everything you can think of.
It’s like taking notes when you’re reading a book or listening to a lecture. When you take notes, you need to filter external information, summarize it in your head, and then write it down. Note-taking helps us distill the information we hear and remember it better than we would if we’d just heard or read it. Writing a list has the same mental benefits.
If the thought of making a to-do list stresses you out, try starting with a “done” list. At the end of each day, write down all the things you accomplished throughout the course of the day. Gratitude lists are another great way to dip your toe into the world of list-making. Before you know it, you may be just as list-obsessed as the rest of us.