I love to-do lists. I’m not talking about a basic fondness for to-do lists, I mean I really have an affinity for to-do lists. In grammar school, on our first day of school, we were given a calendar/planner for the new school year and I truly believe that’s where my love of to-do lists began.
Blame it on my Type A personality, but there’s nothing quite as satisfying as crossing items off of your to-do list as you accomplish them. (Am I right, or am I right?) If you’re like me and get overly excited about a daily, weekly, or monthly to-do list, well then this one’s dedicated to you.
Here are some of the reasons why we love to-do lists.
Top benefits of to-do lists
1. To-do lists can help decrease anxiety
One reason why we love to-do lists is that they may help to decrease anxiety. According to CNN Health, to-do lists can provide a structure for all the major and minor things we need to tackle each and every day.
“These days, people are busy and juggling a million things which can bring on feelings of anxiety and overwhelm,” says Alicia Johnson, LMFT, a licensed therapist providing online services. “Writing to-do lists can help people move some of those tasks racing around their brain onto a list so they do not have to use that mental energy to keep thinking about it and remembering to do it.”
Think about it: If you have an errand, project, or task you need to address, but never write it down, it may tug at your sleeve or weigh on your mind, ultimately distracting your conscious attention. That nagging or unfinished to-do item can be omnipresent whether you’re aware of it or not.
Instead of adding to your already existing daily anxiety and potential overwhelm, write it down on your to-do list so you can better focus on what you need to pay attention to in the present moment.
2. To-do lists give us a sense of confidence and control
A to-do list can give us a sense of confidence, says Deborah J. Cohan, PhD, professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina Beaufort. “We often gravitate to them as a way to give our days, and our lives, a sense of shape, meaning, and purpose.”
To-do lists can also give us a sense of control. “Often we derive a sense of control from making them and especially from crossing them out,” says Cohan. “This can be an illusion of control, but it certainly has an element of control to it.”
Johnson continues to say our brain loves to keep things organized and we like to-do lists because they can break up big projects, help us stay organized and on task, keep us productive, and remind us to take care of ourselves when things feel chaotic.
3. To-do lists can inspire and motivate us
Cohan explains that making a to-do list can be inspiring and motivating for us to conquer a list of tasks.
“When a list is made effectively, and in a very actionable way, it can be productive rather than overwhelming,” she says. “In my own experience, I have found that while a to-do list is helpful, equally important is the done list where we can really reflect on what we have accomplished.”
4. To-do lists remind us of our accomplishments
Speaking of accomplishments, one of my favorite features of to-do lists is they provide a visual reminder of everything you’ve accomplished that day. This is especially true if you feel like you aren’t getting anything done.
A to-do list serves as actual proof things are indeed happening. (Way to make it happen, captain!) If you need a low-lift way to feel good about yourself and everything you’ve done in the day, start making to-do lists.
The bottom line: If you love to-do lists, now you know some of the reasons why you may share my endless affinity for them. And if you’re in the camp of those who are unsure about to-do lists, perhaps these benefits will inspire you to make a to-do list for yourself.
Happy list-making everyone!