Posts Tagged ‘To Do List’

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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I heard a quote recently that stood out to me: “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” I feel often like the days are flying or moving faster than I would like. This quote reminded me that I am in control. 

Controlling your time and schedule isn’t easy and something that takes constant adjustments and awareness.

Dwight D. Eisenhower shared a matrix that he used to help with tasks and prioritizing his time. It can help you with that list as you:

1. Identify at a glance what needs to be done.

2. Move tasks around based on how important or urgent.

3. Have an overview of where you need to focus your attention in the short and long-term.

4. Stay on top of all your to-do lists.

Let me share an example from my own life.  While working from home I knew I would miss the movement that accompanies my usual daily tasks. I am not often confined to a desk and I prefer moving around.  I look forward to classes at the gym for the movement and socialization.   Using Eisenhower’s model I went through each step with my movement and working from home concerns in mind.

Identify at a glance what needs to be done: I need to work some walks and movement into my new workday, as well as other times throughout my day.

Move tasks around based on how important or urgent: I will start my day with a workout; an exercise video or a run. I will also take a stretch break in the afternoon and stand to complete some of my work tasks.  I can listen to music and I gave myself permission to dance.  Occasionally, I’ll even invite my new “coworkers” join. 😉

Have an overview of where you need to focus your attention in the short and long-term: I set reminders on my phone and log my workouts in an app to track progress. 

Stay on top of all your to-do lists: each week I look at my tasks, my needs and make any necessary adjustments.

Image created by Courtney Woelfl

With so many of us moving our offices to our home, some kids schooling from home, gyms closed, activities reduced and more it can disrupt our normal routines. These disruptions can throw us off balance and create extra obstacles to overcome.  Using these to guide your priorities and the matrix to determine your schedule and to-do list can help with any changes you might be dealing with related to staying home and other battles.

I am no Dwight D.  Eisenhower commanding the Allied forces in Europe or a president making decisions for the entire United States, BUT I am in command of my own time and to-do list, and you are too!

Writer: Alisha Barton, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Miami  County, barton.345@osu.edu

Reviewers:   Courtney Woelfl, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Chuyahoga County, woelfl.1@osu.edu


Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle: Using Time Effectively, Not Just Efficiently; http://commonhealth.virginia.gov/documents/wellnotes/UsingTimeEffectivelyNotJustEfficiently.pdf.

Midgie, BillT, Mind Tools Content Team, Mind Tools Content Team, & Mind Tools Content Team. Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle: Using Time Effectively, Not Just Efficiently. Retrieved from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_91.htm

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Feeling overwhelmed with the tasks you have to do for the holiday season?  Does your list include:  special foods to prepare, cookies to make, gifts to buy or make, gifts to wrap, cards or letters to write, friends and family to visit, and a house to clean – in addition to your regular job and responsibilities.  It is easy to see why many of us become stressed and overwhelmed over the holidays.  What can you do to deal with the pressure?

Try these few steps to help simplify your holiday season. 

  • Pick the traditions that mean the most to you or your family, and continue those traditions.  If it is something that “you’ve always done” but don’t really enjoy doing, maybe this is the year to skip it or try a simpler alternative.
  • Scale back this year.  If you always send a holiday letter, maybe this year you decide to wait until the New Year or Valentine’s Day to send your letter or card.  A card or letter in January or February might be a welcome addition to the holiday bills on a cold snowy day.
  • Simplify your decorating.  Decide what you really enjoy seeing in your home, decorate your house and store or give away the rest.  This year I’ve decided not to put out my collection of snowmen and women.  I’m passing some of my family decorations on to my daughters so they can enjoy them in their homes.  Wouldn’t it be nice to share your family favorites?
  • Simplify your holiday meals and parties.  Most of the time we have excess food at holiday gatherings.  Instead of fixing eight side dishes, decide that four are enough.  Add a fruit or veggie tray for a healthy snacking option. If someone offers to bring an appetizer or side dish, tell them yes and don’t feel guilty about it.
Cookie Exchange
  • Have a Cookie Exchange with friends.  If you usually make 10 kinds of cookies, have a gathering with friends and make one or two kinds of cookies and have a cookie exchange.  The bonus:  less work for everyone and you will receive a nice variety of cookies.
  • Make Lists and Get Organized.  If you are purchasing gifts, keep a list so you will have it on hand when you need it.  Stick to a budget so that you don’t add to your financial stress.
  • Be Realistic.  Know that your expectations for the perfect holiday may not happen.  Family issues will still be there and may even increase over the holiday season.  Understand that it is ok to limit the time you spend with family and friends.  If you need some “me” time, take a walk, relax and spend time alone.
  • Keep up those Healthy Habits.  Even though we are busy with the holiday season, remember to take time to exercise and to eat healthy meals.  Don’t skimp on meals or eliminate meals to save calories.  You will end up super hungry and may tend to over consume high calorie foods.
  • Regular Rest helps you reduce Your Stress Levels.  Try to continue your healthy habit of getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night.  Plan your activities so that you aren’t up late at night with last-minute chores.

Take a Walk to Relieve Stress

Try one or more of these tips to help make your holiday season healthy, happy and less stressful.

Writer:  Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Pickaway County, Heart of Ohio EERA, Ohio State University Extension, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewer:  Cheryl Barber Spires, R.D. L.D., SNAP-Ed Program Specialist, West Region, Ohio State University Extension, spires.53@osu.edu

Source:  WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/tc/quick-tips-reducing-holiday-stress-get-started

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