5 benefits of list writing

5 benefits of list writing

Are you a list writer? I don't know if it's fair to say, but I think you're either a list writer or you're not....personally, I've been a list writer since I could write and find real reassurance from getting my tasks down on paper. But it's not just a comfort thing, the mental health benefits of list writing are pretty compelling and in this blog post we're going to look at 5 of them.

How do you write lists?

I'm not gonna lie, my main motivation of list writing is the thought of getting to tick things off at the end. But not everyone's the same, and when I asked my Instagram followers whether they tick as they go or wait to the end, it turns out I am definitely in the minority with waiting until the end of the day to tick off my to do list! 

how to write a to-do list

And now I'm curious...what's your tick off style for list writing? 


And actually regardless of whether you choose to tick off your list as you go or wait 'til the end, the act of ticking it off leads me neatly to the first benefit - a sense of accomplishment.

1. A sense of accomplishment

Accomplishment isn't all climbing mountains and half marathons - the health benefits of lots of small accomplishments versus one large one are huge...think quick wins rather than go big or go home.

In fact, breaking down large tasks and goals into baby steps, i.e. lots of mini goals, is a brilliant way to approach goal setting. And just think of all those tasks you get to tick off along the way ;)

2. Reduction in anxiety

Often, the thought of a task is worse than the reality, as it rattles around our brains and triggers all sorts of negative emotions and nerves, which can totally get in the way of us finding a solution or a plan of attack. Getting the task down on paper gets it out of your head...where it somehow doesn't seem so scary.

I like to think of it like Dumbledore's Pensieve in Harry Potter, where he was able to physically pull thoughts out of his mind and put them in his Pensieve (which looked like a giant mysteriously misty cauldron). Once they were in there, they were out of his mind, he was able to think much more clearly about the way forward:

why write a list albus dumbledore quote

3. Helps you prioritise

I find that seeing my tasks in black and white, in the company of all the other tasks, helps me figure out which is the most important...with this information you can prioritise and make best use of the time you have available.

I find that, once I've "downloaded" everything on to my to-do list, applying my spin on the Eisenhower Matrix to my tasks really helps me here. If you're not familiar with the Eisenhower Matrix, it's where you divide your tasks into 4 types:

  • Important and urgent
  • Urgent but not important
  • Important but not urgent
  • Not important and not urgent

Mine works slightly differently and I call it my 4D method:

  • To do
  • To del(egate)
  • To dump
  • To dream

to-do list method

4. Boosts your memory

There are countless studies proving that the very act of writing something down helps you both remember it and it increases the likelihood of it being accomplished.

Whether you're applying this logic to writing your daily work tasks, a shopping list or to keep your business goals front of mind, it's a great practice of reinforcing a mental activity with a physical act.

5. Allows you to schedule better

Time blocking. Do you do it? If you're staring at the screen wondering what on earth time blocking is, here's a quick description:

Time blocking is the practise of blocking periods of time for a single type of  activity.

I've got a blog post coming up on how I use a to-do list and time blocking in tandem, but one thing's for sure. 

By having a list of all your tasks, you can slot those tasks into the time you have available - giving you clearer visibility over your schedule and concrete information for making decisions on what you can say yes or no to.

Personally, I find saying "No" incredibly hard - having a black and white view of the time I have available gives me the back up I need when I need to turn something down.

Why we write lists

A lot of us write lists because it just makes us feel better and it turns out that there are solid reasons behind why that is - from the physical act of "downloading" and the reduction in anxiety that comes with that, through to the boosts to our memory and our chances of achieving our goals.

Whether you're a small business owner, a CEO of a multinational, a student or a Mum juggling all the things, the benefits of list writing are clear....now where's my pen?

list writing helps you prioritise infographic