Writing Wednesday: How to motivate yourself with lists

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We’ve all been there: that feeling of not being sure what you should be doing right now. What is your most important task? What is your highest priority? What is the easiest thing you could do right now? Why do I even want to do any of it?

Here are some ways lists can help you focus and motivate you to get going and get done.

To do list: Spend a few minutes each evening writing your to-do list for the following day. Think about your day, consider your schedule, check your master to-so list, and write up what absolutely must be done, what could be done if you have time, and what would be nice to do if possible. This adds a ton of focus to your day. You’ll have a running start to your day knowing exactly what you need to do.

It’s especially helpful if you write your to-do as a timeline, fitting tasks around your scheduled events, so you know what to do and when throughout the day. This focuses your time management by giving you a plan for when you are going to get everything done. And you’ll get that oh-so-satisfying feeling of crossing completed tasks off your list!

Reasons why you are doing what you are doing: Remind yourself of why your actions are important. Make a list of reasons why you are doing these things. Look at this list when you lose focus. Maybe this list is your goal outcomes: lose weight to be healthier, better at sports, etc. Maybe the list will be pitfalls to avoid, things you don’t want to happen. Either way, reminding yourself of the benefits and/ or consequences of your actions will help drive you to do your action steps.

List your priorities: When you feel like a deer in the headlights and aren’t sure which tasks to tackle next, write your priorities. Which jobs, projects, roles etc are most important to you? Which ones will have the most positive impact in your life? In the lives of others? Different priorities come to the forefront at different times, so be sure to adjust as necessary. Once you know what is important and why, you’ll be ready to focus on those things.

List your accomplishments: You finally finished that project you’ve been working on? Well done! Write it on your list of accomplishments. Got recognized by the boss for your good work? Write that down too. Seeing a list of your accomplishments on paper feels good, doesn’t it? And there’s the additional motivational factor of wanting to finish projects and do well so you can add them to your list.

There are a couple of ways to go about this: at the end of every week, write a list of things you have accomplished. Or what I like better is to keep a running list each week of the things I’ve done well. Writing things down at the moment instead of waiting gives that feeling of instant gratification. Recognition of your efforts motivates you to do more. These accomplishments lists are also great to look back on when you are feeling demotivated; seeing what you’ve done in the past reminds you of what you are capable of and fires you up for doing more great work.

What are some other ways lists can help motivate you?

Notebook shown: Quo Vadis Habana pocket size notebook.

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