6 Ways Lists Makes Life More Productive

A Listicle About Lists

Mar 30 · 4 min read

Medium loves listicles. But Medium shouldn’t be the only place for which you write lists for. Lists help in every aspect of our life where we want to get this done. Lists are the simplest yet the most effective dopamine boosters.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter. In simple terms, it is a chemical that your body makes. Your nervous system uses it to send messages between the nerve cells. While I do not want to extend this article to the realm of neuroscience, I wish to note one thing here. Among all the functions dopamine performs, the most well-known one is it’s ability to feel pleasure when getting a reward which in turn promotes more action. A process called motivational salience.

Recording small accomplishments and incremental accomplishments are scientifically proven ways to promote dopamine. You feel good when putting a tick mark next to a task that’s done. Dopamine levels are slightly boosted when that happens. You will feel like doing more to get that ‘feel-good’ moment again.

Now that you know the science behind it, here are 6 ways lists help you become more productive

When you sit down and compile a list, it reminds you once again that you have many things to do that you are accountable for. That implicit reminder makes us feel more responsible towards the tasks at hand.

All important things are not urgent. All urgent things are not important. While urgent and important things needs to be done first, unimportant and not-so-urgent tasks can wait for another day.

The easiest way to understand the ratio of urgency vs the importance of tasks would be to use Eisenhower Matrix . And the input to Eisenhower’s Matrix is a simple list of to-do’s. For small prioritising, you won’t even need Eisenhower’s Matrix or any other tools. But you’ll need a list to tell you what are the things that need to be prioritised.

We forget. We forget more when we are stressed. When we have lots of things to do, we would naturally be a little stressed. If you have listed down everything you need to do, it’s okay even if you forget. The list will remind you the next time you have a look at it.

The things that we need to accomplish in a day, both in terms of our work and life, comes from a wide variety of contexts. Higher the number of contextual switches we have to make, the more the decision fatigue. But if your day starts with listing and prioritisation and if the tasks are completed one after the other, the contextual mess can be minimised if not avoided completely.

A day when you are not at all stressed would be a day when you are enjoying at the spa or at the beach. When there is work, there is always a slight amount of stress thanks to all that’ll happen in a typical work day. While the industry you work in, the position you hold, and the type of work environment you are in can all influence the level of stress, a little something that you can do for yourself to reduce the stress is to maintain a simple list. While it explicitly helps you to get things done, it also increases dopamine levels. Dopamine is not just a great motivator, it is also great at reducing stress.

We progress when we get things done. The more efficient we are at it, the faster we move up the ladder. Of course, politics and other tragedies can be obstacles in our way. But they are things that are out of our control. Our focus should be on doing the right things in matters that are under our control. The small acts of organising and planning are steps that when done consistently reaps huge benefits in the long term. Lists are essentially the simplest way to organise tasks, ideas, or anything that you wish to communicate while maintaining order.

To be productive, you often don’t need complicated mantras. A to-do list and an attitude to get things done is good enough.

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