6 ways to hack your to-do list to boost your mental health, according to List Yourself Happy

6 ways to hack your to-do list to boost your mental health, according to List Yourself Happy

List Yourself Happy is the ultimate guide to turning your to-do list from painful to productive.

Lists are usually something we associate with productivity. We write down everything from deadlines and tasks that need completing to what ingredients we need to pick up from the supermarket.

They’re extremely functional and handy to help you stay organised, but not something that holds much joy.

However, according to Jess Indeedy, author of List Yourself Happy: 100 Lists To Inspire Real Change, the humble list can be a source of positive power too.

“This book is designed to extract your ‘inner gold’ to help you bring your unique values, dreams and ideas into your everyday life for optimum happiness” Indeedy writes in the book’s introduction. “I recommend you schedule in a list-making session at least monthly, choosing ten lists from the book, and complete the related action steps within the month.

“The process of making the lists, choosing one action step from each list, and adding them to your plan for the month, results in incremental improvement. You should feel inspired, rather than overloaded, from this process because it’s been broken down into achievable bite-sized tasks.”

According to Indeedy, these are some of the lists that can help boost your mood, bring a greater sense of peace and change your life.

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Write a list to declutter your mind

“We all tend to carry around worries and unhelpful scripts in our daily thoughts,” writes Indeedy. “Sometimes anxiety can be helpful in preparing you for something you’re worrying about, but sometimes you get stuck in a loop of needless worries about things that are simply out of your control.”

Make a list of the things that have been troubling you, making you lose sleep or issues you have hang-ups about. Quickly jot down the first thoughts that come to mind, because those are likely the ones that are bothering you the most. These can include annoying patterns in your life, bad habits, recurring issues and fears. Get it all out, because we’re going to let it all go.

Take action: Make an action plan for one item on the list and attack it this month to get the worry off your plate, or at least work towards improving the situation. Circle which of the items on your list are within your control, and write down what steps you can take to eradicate these worries from your life. Cross out the items on your list that are out of your control, and cast them out of your mind. 

List Yourself Happy by Jess Indeedy
List Yourself Happy by Jess Indeedy

Write an alternative gratitude list

Gratitude lists have somewhat taken over as the new wellness practice of choice, popular in morning routines and self-care sessions. They involve keeping a regular physical record (digital or analogue) of the things in your life you are thankful for: from people to opportunities, to something simple like the crunch of leaves that bring you joy on your autumnal walk.

However, Indeedy proposes using gratitude listing to help reach your goals, by recognising healthy habits you’ve put in place now that you’ll reap the benefits of later.

“Make a list of things you can do today that you’ll be thankful for in the future. These can include anything from starting a new healthy habit, or putting money into an index-tracking fund, to simply ironing all the clothes in your wardrobe.

“I’d recommend thinking about how you want to feel in the future, and focus on what you can do for yourself now to help that along. Do you want to feel more positive, more financially secure, healthier, more relaxed?”

Take action: Choose one item from your list and give your future self this gift in the next month. If you’ve chosen a habit, consider that it takes repetition to get it going, so schedule it in or leave reminders for yourself until the habit feels natural. 

Writing a list can help free up headspace and boost your motivation
Writing lists can help free up headspace and boost your motivation

Write a list of your feelings

“This list can be used in regular practice for a healthier mental hygiene around feeling your emotions,” writes Indeedy.

 “Putting your feelings into words helps you better manage them, it allows you to empathise with yourself, and channel your focus towards the emotions you really want to feel. Think back over the day and make a list of all the feelings you’ve felt so far today. Start from when you woke up to right now. Assign a feeling to each thought, circumstance, issue, interaction.

“As you make your list, re-feel the feelings for better self-awareness and to help you know what to work towards.”

Take action: Make a list of what you would need to change about your day in order to feel happier feelings. Consider where the negative feelings stemmed from and assess if there were any negative feelings you’d like to replace with more positive ones in the future. 

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Write a different kind of to-do list

The to-do list can be something we come to dread, particularly when it means we’re confronted with a looming task or deadline. But Indeedy has a clever hack to optimise and streamline your regular to-do list to ensure you don’t waste valuable time and energy starting from scratch and making new lists on a regular basis.

“Perpetual tasks It’s easy to get bogged down by repetitive everyday tasks, and sometimes it can feel like our days are a flurry of chores and menial admin. Enter the ‘perpetual list’.

“Make a list of repetitive tasks and activities you find yourself having to do all the time. Mentally go through the past week, and think of all the various chores, tasks and admin activities you completed that you don’t particularly enjoy. For instance, you may have felt you were constantly doing laundry, or engaged in a pointless work-related email volley that went on and on.”

Take action: Then, assess your perpetual tasks and choose one to tackle by automating or delegating this month. For tasks that can’t be automated or delegated, try to bundle annoying tasks together, so at least they’re completed during a set chunk of time. 

Indeedy believes that the positive power of lists shouldn't be underestimated
Indeedy believes that the positive power of lists shouldn't be underestimated

Write a pleasure list

“Engaging and exploring our sensual side is a big factor in our wellness and maintaining our life fulfilment,” the book explains. “It’s a necessary part of human life, and research shows that having positive sexual relationships, with ourselves or others, is key to maintaining our life satisfaction.”

Indeedy suggests listing three ways you’d like to increase your sexual and sensual pleasure. “Remember, the items on your list don’t have to involve other people, you can feel free to devote your entries to self-love. You can add new things you’d like to try, and be more adventurous with your exploration of all things sensual. You can add to your list something that you already know makes you feel wonderful, and just do it more often.”

Take action: This month, choose one of the entries from your list, and indulge. Set aside ample time this month to explore and expand your pleasures for increased happiness. Whether you have a partner or not, there is always plenty of scope for trying new things and finding out what’s exciting for you.

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Write a compliment list

Kind words from a friend, loved one or stranger have the power to turn a bad day around.

Listing them out may feel a bit like blowing your own trumpet, but it will help you get in the habit of remembering and recording the glowing comments you’ve received, so you can access them when you need a boost.

“Find ways to savour and remind yourself of these compliments on a daily basis,” says Indeedy. “This is the fun part where you get to bask in all the wonderful things people have said about you. You could add the personal compliment of ‘You’re so inspiring’ to your journal so you see it everyday or have a screensaver on your computer displaying a professional compliment you received from your boss or colleague.”

Take action: Make a list of ten compliments you’ve received and from whom. You can include any lovely things people have said about your work, your appearance, your personality, or how you handled a situation. 

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