We live in a world of constant overstimulation, distraction, and over-commitment. As I am writing this, I have two kids coming home from school wanting a snack and wanting to tell me about their day.
“If I read 20 minutes a night for the next month, I get two tickets to a baseball game!”
I have one kid playing with Play-Doh® wanting to show me everything he is creating and wanting me to play with him.
“I made a cookie for you, mom.”
“Eat the cookie!”
“Make me a cookie.”
I am also eating lunch, listening to Dr. Oz, and checking email and Facebook. I am thinking about what we are doing tonight and about a party I have coming up. My mind is swimming with tasks, big and small, which need to be completed. It is impossible to concentrate, and my stress level is beginning to rise!
So, I will ask the question again. Why are lists important? Let me count the ways…
- Lists help to organize and prioritize – When your head is swimming with tasks, write them ALL down. It may sound foolish, but I have actually added Get dressed to a list when I am feeling overwhelmed. Once everything is on paper, prioritize. Put those things which need to get done on the top of the list, and save the others for another day. If I have an event coming up, I will make a list for each day leading up to the event.
- Lists help to simplify – When you have a larger task which seems overwhelming, break it down into a list of several smaller, easier tasks.
- Lists relieve stress and focus the mind – An appropriately organized and prioritized list will immediately focus your mind on the important tasks. This will eliminate the stress that comes with thinking about everything at once.
- Lists help us to remember things – I cannot even count the number of times I have thought of something KNOWING I would remember it in an hour or when I got home only to forget it 10 minutes later. Now I use a note app on my phone so I can be sure not to forget it. A small notebook and pen in your purse can serve the same purpose.
- The joy of completing a task and checking it off helps to keep you motivated – When you can physically see the fruits of your labor, the sense of accomplishment you feel propels you toward the next task on your list.
- Lists help you to delegate – As much as we are told we can do it all, the truth is we often need help. Once I have an organized list, especially for larger tasks or events, I can assign items on that list to others for completion. Easier tasks can be done by the kids, and more complicated tasks can be split between me and my husband. When we all work together, the list gets done faster. The same concept works for leading a team or managing employees.
- Lists are a work in progress – My general “To Do” list changes over time. I create a list at the beginning of the week. I organize and prioritize the list. As I complete tasks over the course of my week, I check them off. Then, inevitably, another task emerges, and then another, and another. I am always adding new things to my list. At the end of the week, I write a new list which I organize and prioritize for the upcoming week. I begin each week with a plan and a purpose. It gives me direction and motivates me.
- Lists free up time to do more enjoyable things – When I have a prioritized list for the week, I can set up my week to allow for “fun” time. I try to divvy up my tasks on the weekdays so my weekends are free. If I know I have a “girls’ night” coming up on Thursday, I can schedule my tasks around it. I am able to fully enjoy my free time because I know everything else is taken care of.
One key thing to remember about lists, though, is you must actually do the items on your list to reap the benefits. The simple act of making a list can have positive impacts on stress, but they are fleeting if you don’t take action.