Posts Tagged ‘list making’

a pile of to-do lists

Are you a list maker? It’s ok, I am too! There is something wonderfully satisfying about making a list. Even more fulfilling is checking, crossing, staring or otherwise denoting the completion of one of its tasks. I think post it notes are a perfect stocking stuffer (even though my kids don’t) and having a stash of them at home, work, and in my car is necessary for me to live a productive life. That’s normal, isn’t it? Well, even if you do not have Glazomania (the unrecognized term for the love of making lists), research shows that I am not alone in my obsession, and perhaps making lists is actually one of my healthier habits. Read on as I list the reasons why….

NPR suggests (or lists) 10 reasons why people like lists: 

1. Lists bring order to chaos. My husband dreads my lists, but agrees that they keep us on track.

2. Lists help us remember things, like when we need to buy more milk at the store.

3. Most lists are finite.

4. Lists can be meaningful – think of a bucket list.

5. Lists can be as long or as short as necessary. New Year’s resolutions could be considered a list!

6. Making lists could help make you famous! Famous list makers include Thomas Jefferson, Martha Stewart, and Benjamin Franklin.

7. The word “list” can be tracked back to William Shakespeare.

8. Lists relieve stress and focus the mind.

9. Lists can force people to say revealing things – think best and worst dresses lists.

10. Lists can keep us from procrastinating.

According to Psychologist Dr. David Cohen, “we love to-do lists for three reasons: they dampen anxiety about the chaos of life; they give us a structure, a plan that we can stick to; and they are proof of what we have achieved that day, week or month.” I will add sometimes they are just fun; think David Letterman’s Top 10 lists. Psychologists Claude Messner and Michaela Wänke state, “the more we know about something—including precisely how much time it will consume—the greater the chance we will commit to it.”

However, E.J. Masicampo, an associate professor of psychology at Wake Forest University warns us about dangers associated with list making. He says they can become “mental graveyards”, meaning ideas go there to die. If we don’t accomplish the contents of out lists, they may become a source of anxiety, or worse, begin a cycle of unrealized ideas which can stunt our ambition.

For most of us, the physical reminder of a list can help manage the anxiety of a hectic week and bring order to our lives. In her book To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us author Sasha Cagen shares a compilation of her lists and discusses how she became known as a to-do list-ologist. I am going to stick with my post it notes, but for those who want to take their list making to the next level, there are apps for that. Check out these online favorites: Todoist, Evernote, and Monday.com. Feel free to list them in the order you like!

Written by Heather Reister, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Butler County

Reviewed by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County


Cagen, S. (2007). To-do list: From buying milk to finding a soul mate, what our lists reveal about us. https://www.sashacagen.com/to-do-list-book/

Guardian News and Media. (2017, May 10). The psychology of the to-do list – why your brain loves ordered tasks. The Guardian. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/may/10/the-psychology-of-the-to-do-list-why-your-brain-loves-ordered-tasks

Kent, L. (2020, July 14). The psychology behind to-do lists and how they can make you feel less anxious. CNN. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/14/health/to-do-lists-psychology-coronavirus-wellness/index.html

Konnikova, M. (2013, December 2). A list of reasons why our brains love lists. The New Yorker. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/a-list-of-reasons-why-our-brains-love-lists

Weeks, L. (2009, February 24). 10 reasons why we love making lists. NPR. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://www.npr.org/2009/02/24/101056819/10-reasons-why-we-love-making-lists

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