Three benefits of writing lists to add more clarity, purpose and productivity into your day

Every year there is a morning when the routine must change. The clear windscreens of summer are replaced by condensation – and if you are to make it to the bus stop / work / somewhere else important on time, then it is important to give the car a few minutes of defrosting time before you leave.

This morning I was unprepared. The kids were running late. We drove out with the heater blasting, the wipers wiping and the sun reflecting off every single re-condensing streak on our windscreen. It is one of the first reminders that summer doesn’t last forever, and winter is on its way.

As I drove back from the bus-stop, I was struck by the similarity between the condensation and the state of my head.

Foggy and unclear, and needing a little time to prepare for the day ahead.

I have many things that I want to achieve today, and my first instinct is always to dive right in and get things happening. My head is swirling with things I need to do – ‘write this blog post, send out newsletter, take books back to library, put dinner in the slow-cooker, take the kids to the dentist, start the next illustration …‘ in no particular order. The problem is, as I try to order these things in my head I often feel a little overwhelmed, avoid the things I’ve been putting off that should be in my list but I’d rather not be and then I inevitably don’t give myself enough time to do the important things – like make dinner. I also don’t give myself the credit I deserve for what I do do – and use the things that I don’t do as a reason to put myself down.

That’s not really okay, is it? I know it’s unhealthy to talk badly to myself – and yet I so often seem to find a way to fill my day with reasons to do this very thing.

My drive this morning helped me to find a new resolve. The car needed some time to prepare – and so, I realised, do I. Foggy-condensation in my head or not, I will feel good about myself today, and it’s going to start with a list.

write-a-list

All too often I write lists and cast them aside, or forget about them. Sometimes I tell myself I should write a list, but instead I frantically try to keep all my ‘to-do‘s neatly ordered inside of my head.

Not possible. Sorry. Not in my head, anyway.

Whether you are a list person or not, if you’ve as many things as me to manage inside your days and weeks I’d like to invite you to consider the following benefits that taking a little time to organise your thoughts can give …

1. Writing a list will free-up your mind

It is a small task, but getting your thoughts out of your head and on to paper means you no longer have to try to remember them. Your head becomes free of the responsibility of having to re-call all of those important tasks you are needing to do – and instead it can concentrate on actually doing those things you need to do.

This means you gain the clarity you need to complete your jobs more effectively and more efficiently.

2. Crossing off things you have done makes you feel good

A few years ago I was advised to write down every little thing I need to do in a day. Include things like ‘get up’, ‘brush my teeth’ and ‘eat breakfast’. The subsequent action of crossing these tasks off my list would then make me feel like I was already achieving things in my day and put me into a more productive frame of mind as I continued. Granted, these are things I do regardless, without thinking, but it feels good to acknowledge the fact that I have done them.

This same person said to me, “and as you cross it off, tell yourself how great you are. Go overboard and do a little dance of achievement. Celebrate it, just for a moment – and notice how good you feel about yourself as you spend your day congratulating yourself for all the great things you have achieved.”

He was right. It did feel good to celebrate myself many times a day. It also didn’t last very long – I think I found it a bit over the top – and so the dance part is not for everybody. I do, however, highly recommend adding at least a few of those jobs that you know you will do regardless to help boost yourself-esteem and feelings of productivity.

3. Those niggly jobs you don’t like will actually get done

Inside my head there is nothing more mind-consuming than the little jobs that I would really rather not do. I manage to put them off by keeping so many tasks in my head that I can conveniently forget about those really important annoying tasks until later on when it’s really not a good time. I then spend time feeling useless and overwhelmed because the little jobs are growing in numbers and importance, and they seem just too big to tackle.

Writing them down, however, is a different story.

The jobs are on paper, and I can’t get away from them. I can’t pretend they are not there. No matter how many times I tell myself that ‘this other job is more important’ there’s really no denying that that needs to get done. So I do it. And it’s easy. And I wonder what all the fuss was about.

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Does any of this sound familiar? I bet there are many of you who, like me, know that writing a list could help your day, but see it is just one other task that you don’t want to spend your valuable time doing.

Thing is, if you take the time in the morning to defrost your car, your drive will be safer, quicker and a whole lot less stressful than if you do what I did this morning. The same goes for preparing your mind for the tasks ahead. It really doesn’t take long but its benefits can be many.

I’ve convinced myself, and my list is now long, but following the blue ‘publish’ button that I’m about to press I will get to feel the satisfaction of crossing another item off my list. Can you relate? Do you write a list to help organise your day? Please share your thoughts by commenting below.

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