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I admit it. I love to make lists, and have done so most of my life. Perhaps because I’m focusing on organization and decluttering, thanks to Marie Kondo, creating lists has increased the last few days.
Not everyone loves to make lists, however, there are very good reasons to adopt the practice, and not just for bringing order to chaos or boosting the memory.
I’ve jotted down…made a list…of 10 reasons why we love to make lists.
Helps us Remember Things
From making a grocery list to writing down what we need to pack for a trip, creating lists helps us to remember what we need to do. And while that’s important enough, list making then frees up the brain to focus on other things. Don’t you hate lying awake at night, thinking about you need to do, or worrying that you will forget something? That’s part of the brain’s job…to keep bringing our attention to what needs to be one. When a list is made, the brain can move on to something else, freeing up energy and reducing fretfulness.
Helps Us to Be Better Prepared
Connected to helping us remember, making a list prepares us for what comes next. It organizes thoughts and allows us to see what we need to do, to prepare for an event. So we might make a list called “Things I need when I bring my puppy home” or “How to create an herb garden”. This is part of creating order out of chaos. A simple list gives us a step by step plan, so nothing important is left out.
We Join the Ranks of Highly Successful People
We love to make lists because ultimately, we know doing so boosts our success rate. A study at Dominican University, in California, found that we are 33% more likely to achieve our goals and tasks if we write them down. And further, we join historical list makers such as Alfred Einstein, Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison and Ronald Reagan. They all relied on their lists and notes. Take a peek at one of Thomas Edison’s lists, from 1888.
Allows a Larger Task to Be Broken into Smaller Tasks
Making a big, vague goal, such as “Travel”, can be overwhelming. Instead, making a list breaks it down into manageable tasks. Travel becomes:
- Set date for trip to Scotland
- Meet with travel agent
- Check passport
- Buy new carryon luggage
- Create itinerary
- Buy a new raincoat
Step by step, a list takes us to the big goal of travel.
Keeps Us Focused and on Task
One of the things I love most about a list is that it helps me to focus. Without a written out lists of tasks, we are too easily distracted. Productivity takes a dive as well. With a list, even if an unforeseen distraction pulls us away, we can quickly and easily get back on task.
Crossing Off Tasks Creates a Sense of Satisfaction
Have you ever added a task to your to do list, right before or even right after you do it, just so you can cross it off? I have! We do that because crossing items off the list gives us an instant sense of satisfaction and gratification. I love being rewarded with that tiny thrill…and it motivates me to keep moving down the list.
A word of caution: don’t add too many tasks to a list. We only include what we have the time and resources to accomplish in a day. Otherwise, we create dissatisfaction for ourselves, unnecessarily so.
Is it bad if we don’t finish everything on the list? No. We just add it to another list…or determine if it wasn’t really a priority.
Helps Us Make Decisions
We can use pro/con lists when we have a tough decision to make. Making two columns and writing in the pros for the situation and the cons allows us to see the bigger picture and aids in the decision making process.
We also use lists when trying to decide on things like baby names, homes to buy, and things we really want to do while we are journeying through life. I prefer the term “Life List” over “Bucket List”, however they are the same thing, and having one helps us to realize what is important to accomplish with the time we have here.
Expands Our Thinking
Writing down an idea or a goal can be a launching pad that leads to bigger ideas and goals.
Paula Rizzo, author of Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Succesful and Less Stressed, says,
“Start with only one goal and work it out on paper. Sketch out how you could actually achieve it, if money and time were not important factors.”
For example, if the goal is to meet better people to do business with this year, brainstorm ideas of places to meet them or people who could serve as a connection. Writing down a list sets things in motion. What we put out there, in the universe, comes back to us, often in unexpected and amazing ways.
Creative thinking is improved when we make lists. Energy seems to flow from our brains to paper or computer screen, through our fingers, unleashing ideas. I use lists for creating blog posts and coming up with fresh ideas and new experiences to try. When I did my Year of Firsts, I spent the month of December jotting down a massive list of things I had never done, that I could experience for the first time. That list became a great resource when I felt stuck or out of ideas. Writing out a list of 10 Recipes to Try or 10 Poetry Ideas always generates more creativity.
Below is a photo of my list, for creating this blog post!
Among lists to make, a gratitude list is my favorite. The simple yet profound practice of writing down daily gratitudes allows me to see the good in my day and feel again a sense of thankfulness. This list can be created at the end of the day, or in the morning, as a record of the day before. Use a gratitude journal, one that sparks joy or brings a smile, and list five or more things from the day that you are grateful for. In my experience, expressing gratitude raises awareness and brings more into life to be grateful for.
The Power of Making Lists
Psychologist and author, Dr. David Cohen, gives these reasons for our love of to do lists:
- they reduce anxiety about the chaos of life
- lists provide structure and a plan that we can stick to
- they are proof that we have achieved something that day, that week or that month
I agree. My love of making lists stems from a desire for order in my life and from the satisfaction I get when I cross tasks off the list. That feels wonderful to me. And lists are versatile, limited only by our imaginations and desires. Several years ago, I began adding Ta Das to my lists as well, creative expressions of what I accomplished in a day.
Do you create lists? What is your favorite type of list to make?
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