The Power of Lists

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Life can often become busy or hectic, and there seem to be too many things to accomplish and not enough time to accomplish them. It can be overwhelming to not have a plan for the tasks each day brings. I have found lists to be extraordinarily helpful. 

To-do lists can be great tools to provide structure, give a record of accomplishments during the day, and also allow for the release of stress or anxiety. Lists also help prioritize which tasks are more time-sensitive or urgent and help bring order to a daily schedule.

I make lists for groceries, meals to eat during the week, homework tasks, jobs, and internships. It’s safe to say I could have a list for my lists as well. Writing this article is an item on my list. But there’s a method to my madness. I don’t just write things down for the sake of writing them down. I write things down in an organized manner so as to structure my time, with the added bonus of satisfaction as I cross off or delete each item completed.

I recommend creating lists for tasks you have to do, no matter how big or small, because it creates a sense of pride and accomplishment, as well as gives the illusion of having your life together, even if you feel you do not.

It’s important to be mindful when creating your lists, however. I would not advise you to just write down all the things you have to do in the next few weeks in solid bullet points. In fact, it often creates more anxiety to create a long list of unreasonable tasks because not being able to cross them off is seen as a need unfulfilled. It’s important when creating lists to be conscious of your schedule and to give yourself some breaks. In my day-to-day lists, I factor in time for things that I not only have to do but want to do. I will add items for relaxation or mindfulness, such as reading, writing, journaling, etc. These can be small but important tasks, so you don’t feel overwhelmed by the remainder of the items. The trick is to frame the list as a set of miniature goals.

In order to be effective, your goals need to be well defined with some type of short time frame (this doesn’t have to be explicitly written). This is because people tend to give up in the middle of goals if they seem too daunting or time-consuming. 

In addition, your lists should have some flexibility. It’s okay if your plans change or get interrupted and it’s important to realize this is not the end of the world. You can reframe your lists and your plans. In other words, your measure of success isn’t how well you stick to your plan, but how well you accomplish the tasks most important to you, and how you feel while doing them.