Lists are for People with CRS (Alt Ending)

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crop woman taking notes in calendar

Honey! Do you know what time my dentist appointment is?

No. It’s your appointment, not mine. Don’t you keep a calendar?

Well, no, not for everything. Just the important stuff.

And your dental health is not important?

Well, it is, but…

Sound familiar? I hope not, but many of us go through similar experiences daily. Maybe not with dental appointments, but as humans, we think we are smart enough to remember stuff. I mean, we only use 10% of our brains, right? We have TONS of space to fill it with this kind of stuff.

Except that we don’t.

Our brains are good at things like being creative, figuring out puzzles, and enjoying a shot of bourbon or a glass of wine. Our brains are NOT so good at remembering mundane things like appointments, lists, and long strings of letters and numbers. (I’m looking at you, login password…all of you.)

Think about it. When you go to the dentist, they give you a card with the date and time on it, because the receptionist knows you will forget that date just a few minutes later. What you do with the appointment card at that point is up to you. Do you save it in a “safe space” (which you will certainly forget the next morning) or do you put it in your wallet or purse?

(Or do you do like my friend at the beginning of this episode and rely on someone else to do the remembering for you?)

Look, we’re just not built for keeping this kind of information in our heads for more than a few minutes or maybe hours. Our brains just can’t handle it for any longer because there is little to associate with it.

But seriously, why would you want to keep that appointment in your head anyway?

Imagine if you had to keep that reminder up there for six months. You would be thinking about it over and over and over again, every single day so you didn’t miss your appointment.

What a waste of time, energy, and brain strain. You’d be exhausted and probably a little irritated and wish there was a better way to meet your appointments. Well there is.

Just write it in your calendar. Sheesh!

Let’s face it, we just can’t remember everything all the time. And some of us have a chronic condition called CRS (Can’t Remember Shit). It’s a horrible affliction and there’s little help available from the medical field.

But there is promising research that shows that simply writing things down longhand on paper, tablet, or w hiteboard can dramatically reduce the common symptoms of CRS, namely forgetfulness, lateness, irritability, anxiety, and frustration.

Making lists reduces stress and increases performance. And who couldn’t use an extra dose of that once in a while? In fact, a therapeutic drip would be incredibly useful.

Sounds great, but how do you do this in real life? How do you commit to making and using your list on a regular basis?

First, don’t make it an overwhelming task itself.

Making a list should be simple and, if possible, enjoyable. Use lists for things like groceries, or errands to run, or birthday and holiday gifts as you think of them. These are important because you want please others, you want to please yourself, and you want to be effective and efficient in your daily activities. (i.e. a good time manager)

And going to the grocery store and forgetting to buy salsa when planning for Taco Tuesday will throw you into a fit of rage or at least a moderate level of frustration or disappointment. Nobody likes sad faces on Taco Tuesday, so start a grocery list and add to is as you remember items or read recipes. Appreciate the peace of mind and efficiency of your efforts at the store and in the meal you enjoy.

Second, create a routine of making lists.

Grocery lists and errands lists sort of write themselves over the course of the day or the week. That’s great. But other lists, like to-do lists require more discipline. For these lists, you’ll want to schedule a time to get the best out of them.

Some say writing your to-do list at night is a great way to get all of those things out of your head and prepare for a peaceful, rejuvenating sleep experience. Other research argues that writing those items down at night can spawn thinking about these unfinished tasks which can cause anxious, restless sleep.

There is also evidence that getting up extra early and spending a few minutes on exercise, then thinking about your business, and creating action lists can generate outstanding results.

Try each of them out and see what works best for you. The important thing is to write that list to give yourself a fighting chance and a good head start in getting stuff done.

Third, concentrate on tasks, not goals.

That’s why it’s called a “to-do” list, not a “to-complete” list. Tasks get done, goals get completed.

Your daily list should contain action items, otherwise known as tasks. Tasks provide clarity and motivation to get stuff done. Goals are long-lived and likely will not be completed in a single day. That means they end up on tomorrow’s list. And that creates a sense of failure. Not helpful.

And fourth, cut your list in half. No matter how long or how short, cut it in half.

I know this might sound crazy, but consider this activity a cutthroat prioritizing exercise. By cutting your to-do list in half, you are willfully deciding what is most important. And you are keeping your mind set on just the tasks in front of you, not thinking (aka worrying) about those other less important tasks that are now cutting room floor.

If you knock out everything on your list, you can go back to those cut ones. Or you might discover new,  more important things to do as you work through your top priorities during the day. Serendipity.

So to recap, don’t make list-making an overwhelming task, create a routine to make your list each morning or evening, include tasks, not goals, and cut your list in half to prioritize and focus on your most important tasks.

Life Pro Tip: Take your to-do list items and time-block them on your calendar. Get your tasks started on time and finished on time. Once you commit that space in your schedule for it, you’ll honor that time and perform the task you’ve set out to complete.

Check out this great webpage on being more productive by using a schedule maker.

So how will you get stuff out of your head and onto paper or into an app? How will you be sure to create a routine and write that list each morning or evening? And how will you cut that list down to prioritize and focus on just the tasks that matter the most?

It’s up to you to decide how to capture your lists, tasks, and prioritized actions. You decide how productive you’ll be in the next twenty-four hours. You decide how to focus your attention, your energy, and your time-blocked calendar.

Your Mindful Moment:

Make a date with your to-do list. Seriously, take your to-do list and make dates with all the stuff on it. And then be on time and end on time. You’ll enjoy it so much, you’ll want to do it again.

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