Lists are an amazing tool in your arsenal of techniques to manage your workload and mental health at work.
They reduce anxiety, they give us a little structure to work with, and they help us celebrate what we've achieved, and research shows even just the act of writing things down helps us be more effective at getting things done.
Here are six benefits and ways to use lists to help you to work well.
1. Get stuff out of your head
Writing things down really helps - whether its a journal, a list of things you need to do and want to do, or even creative or nonsense writing, getting stuff out of your brain and on to paper helps you thoughts from running out internally, and makes them tangible and visible. Carry a notebook, write down thoughts as they come to you, or set aside some time in the morning to list the stuff on your mind - whether they're tasks, ideas or worries. It can also be really helpful to slow down your mind at night, if your mind is racing - get the thoughts down on paper, and return to sleep.
2. Break things down into smaller chunks
Often times, items on lists can be too large to "get done". Adding items like "Get healthy" or "Write new business plan" are so large, it's hard to know where to start. Breaking those large tasks into smaller tasks which are understandable and actionable makes it feel way more likely that you're going to get the task done. So "Write new business plan" breaks down into "Identify my customer group; articulate my offering; set my pricing" or similar.
3. Prioritise things
It's very easy to feel overwhelmed if you've got a really long list of things to do, so prioritising those tasks which are essential, or focusing on the things which need to happen first, either because of a deadline or because they allow other things to become possible. If you've taken to writing lists and you're worried about seeing just how many things are to do, split your lists up into "today, tomorrow, soon", and just focus on the top three most important tasks.
4. Celebrate crossing them off
Even if you're not working, keeping track of all of the things you are getting done is really important and effective at helping you recognise achievements. It can be hard to look back at the end of a month if you've not had specific projects that have been completed, but reviewing your todo list and seeing all of the things you crossed off will help you remember both the large and small wins. Sharing them with your team (or Leapers if you haven't got a team) helps even further.
5. Don't do too much
At the moment, there's a risk we go into hyper-productive states, because we're trying to show we're busy working. Keeping a list helps you keep track of stuff you're actually getting done, and helps you to say to yourself, at the end of the day, I've done enough, and take some rest to tackle tomorrow.
6. Put yourself on your to-do list.
And finally - lists give us the opportunity to time and space for our own emotional health and development as a priority. Make sure every day you're adding just 15 minutes to give yourself some time to reflect, to invest in your own wellbeing. Perhaps write it at the top of every list you create, or make it the fourth thing you do after every three others.