Why do I make lists all the time?

by Ana Lourenço, 29 January 2016

“Most of us have difficulty remembering a list of information that is longer than 5 to 7 items. In many cases, just writing down our thoughts or creating a list of things to do, allows our minds to focus on other things which, in turn, make our lives less stressful. Using a checklist is an excellent way to make our lives simpler and more productive.”

This is a question that has been running through my mind lately, which is why do I make and love lists?

In January 2016 I finished what I called “The list of tangible results of 2015” and I have to say that I had never felt such accomplishment in my life.


During this same month, I started to draw the list of conferences I will be attending in 2016 and another list which included the goals for 2016. According to Maria Konnikova, the author of “Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes,”…there is little that our brains crave more than effortlessly acquired data“.

The most interesting point of this information is that people in general never think about this. As a freelance professional linguist, translator, business and project manager I got myself thinking whether “effortlessly”, that according to Oxford Dictionaries.com stands for “in a manner requiring no physical or mental exertion” would be the best adverb to use in such an important, specific and deep matter. I came to the positive conclusion that yes, that adverb was the best choice.

After some deep reading on the subject, I found it extremely interesting the thought of “Whenever we encounter new information, our brains immediately try to make sense of it”. The most curious part of this is that this is a natural and unconscious process. Being an unconscious process, it becomes arduous to memorize and save all the information in our brains and to understand why this happens. “Once they figure out what we’re seeing in a physical sense, they work to provide personal context and decide if it’s relevant enough to focus on further.” Speaking of relevance, the most important thing of working with lists and what makes them effective is to organize them through relevance.

Let’s imagine you have a list of 10 things to do during the next 5 months. If we divide the list into categories, place them in a calendar and divide that calendar into things to do during the next week, the next month and the next three months the process becomes smoother and you tend to feel better with it. This better feeling is connected to the mere act of planning how to do something, freeing us from the burden of unfinished tasks.

Our minds love it when plans come together. Again, planning frees minds from the burden of unfinished tasks.

The Getting Things Done method, also called GTD method, defends that if “attention has a limited capacity, then you can only fit so much in your mind at any one time”. This means that your to-do lists would only have to include your goals for the next week, next month and next three months. While building my own lists I came out with what seemed to me as a new list method. This method is simple and involves one — compiling randomly what you intend to do during the whole year. Two — distribute that list in months and prioritize.

Prioritizing works like a reminder system on how you will do things in the future. It releases your mind to what really matters. As a method, planning and prioritizing brings more than satisfaction, it brings fulfillment and accomplishment, even before having things done. When you feel accomplished before doing something, you will do and prepare things with an extra motivation. And what else do we need to put things into practice?

M-O-T-I-V-A-T-I-O-N. Where can we get it from? Planning and putting things into practice will help. Motivation is power.

Information retrieved from,





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