I make a lot of lists. And not just your, “Let’s jot down 12 – 392 items we need at Target” activity-specific type of lists. No, I may daily lists. I make lists on weekends. I make lists for my lists. When I don’t make my daily list, I feel weird. They’re not exactly necessary for me to function, but I love them all the same. I have my favorite pens, my favorite notebooks, and then I have my lists. The lists are kind of like coffee is for me – I’m fairly certain I would survive without them, but the ritual of it makes me feel happy and grounded every day. Basically, I don’t want to find out what a world without them is like. So, for my foreseeable future life, the lists (and coffee; I’m not a monster) are staying.
For most weekdays, my lists are made up mostly of work duties. I write down things like reminders of specific stories I have to write, pitches I have to send, interviews I have to conduct, etc. I also include daily chores and errands that I really don’t want to do and don’t necessarily need to do, but should — things like mailing something, dropping off dry cleaning, or organizing a specific shelf of my closet. But there are a couple things I put on my lists every day, without fail, no matter what that actually have nothing to do with productivity or work. If I put nothing else on a list, I put these two things and tackle them as soon as I can.
The first thing? I write a reminder to check my bank account.
I’ve written about this before, but this daily reminder has fully changed how I approach money. When I lived in New York and had very little disposable income (and OK, I took like a lot of Ubers), I would often get myself in a situation where I spent more than usual a few days in a row and I would be too anxious about money to check my bank account. It may sound silly, but if you’ve been there too, you know that once you start avoiding it, it’s really hard to get yourself to bite the bullet and check your balance. Now, I put a reminder on my list every single day to look at my balance, and I usually check it off first thing in the morning. It gets my day rolling and helps me feel in control. Plus, it’s now way easier to identify any recurring charges from subscriptions I’m not using or any other charges that don’t make sense. It’s simple and takes two seconds of my day every day, but it’s great. Oh, and it’s helped me save more money.
The second thing? I make myself write down three good things every day, no matter what.
I simply write “three good things” as a reminder (it’s directly after “check $” on my list, usually) and then three numbered lines after to write down whatever it is that is cheering me up, making me happy, or having a positive influence on me that day. Sometimes I jot down three things all at once (usually just single words that remind me of larger good things that are making me feeling good), or I fill it out throughout the day. This helps give me a positive boost if I’m feeling a bit meh, and also is a really easy thing to do and check off the list when I can’t make myself do the other, more difficult things. Plus, it’s a good reminder that productivity isn’t my life’s purpose. I love a good list, but I mainly like them because they make me feel good, not because they help me get shit down. And honestly, we could probably all use the reminder that how we’re feeling is much more important than how many things we’re checking off a list.
If you’re new to list-making and none of this sounds good to you, then feel free to ignore it all. But if you’re like me and you’re reading this while sitting next to a notebook with a ton of stuff scrawled down, maybe try adding these two things to your list tomorrow and tell me how it works for you.