Thinking Out Loud

Lists: What Do Yours Say About You?

By Theagarajan_CML

I always make lists.

If you were to dig through my backpack and ruffle through the mass of notes you’d find things like: get groceries, email such and such, set alarm and wash my hair. I make notes for everything.

Lists keep our daily affairs in order. Have you ever stopped to think that our lists say more about us than we realized? Regardless of what is on your to-do list, they can reveal a great deal about our concerns, expectations and desires.

Benjamin Franklin wrote notes too. He was one of the most innovative minds of our time yet he still felt the need to draft lists regarding necessary attributes for moral perfection. Famed architect Eero Saarien wrote to-do lists as well, compiling lists of the qualities he loved about his wife and reminders to change his light bulbs.

For me personally, writing notes is my way of making order out of chaos and apparently, a few famous geniuses thought so too. I’d say there is much to be said about list-making.

Psychologists agree that we function better and more efficiently when we make plans or lists. In fact if you think about it, what do you tend to remember more: finished tasks or unfinished ones?

Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik noted that people remember and perform one task better once they’ve created a plan and focus on one task at a time. So for example, you probably would have remembered to write your blog post if you had already created a plan to complete other tasks afterwards (ahem).

Yet sometimes even the most well thought out to-do lists can’t prevent us from procrastinating and whipping up a batch of cinnamon rolls (dang it) instead of going for a run. Try your best to keep to your lists while still allowing yourself some concessions– don’t get too anxious if you don’t. I find if I prioritize according to quality vs quantity, I feel like I’ve achieved something.

After all, if completing all the tasks on my list means I’m ultimately forfeiting a meaningful part of my daily life, then I should probably go ahead and make those cinnamon rolls after all.

The important reference bits:

Psychology Today


The Zeignarnik Effect

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