The Psychology of Making Lists

The Psychology of Making Lists


Last week my sons tortured my daughter telling her that she was on the naughty list. Hubby and I kept reminding her that their lists didn’t matter and encouraged her to not worry about it. (We also told the boys to stop being pain-in-the-rears.)

This week as I sat under the hair dryer of my magician beautician Abby, I showed her my To-Do list. Abby commiserated with me on the need to make lists and just how quickly those lists grow.

More importantly we discussed how making lists boosts our self-esteem and motivates us to do more.

Are you a list maker?

Well, if you are, excellent! The next few pieces of information will support your productive habit. If you aren’t a list maker, maybe you will find some solutions to your chaotic craziness in the advice provided about the psychology of making lists.

In the Pyschology Today article, “How Making Lists Can Quell Anxiety and Breed Creativity: Six benefits of a small solace-producing obsession,” Dr. Carrie Barron explains some very powerful benefits of list making.

Here are the Six Great Benefits of Lists. Lists:

  1. Provide a positive psychological process whereby questions and confusions can be worked through. True purposes surface.
  2. Foster a capacity to select and prioritize. This is useful for an information-overload situation.
  3. Separate minutia from what matters, which is good for identity as well as achievement.
  4. Help determine the steps needed. That which resonates informs direction and plan.
  5. Combat avoidance. Taking abstract to concrete sets the stage for commitment and action. Especially if you add self-imposed deadlines.
  6. Organize and contain a sense of inner chaos, which can make your load feel more manageable.

Dr. Barron’s lists hits home in so many ways. I love that she included true purpose, identity and achievement, and containing inner chaos. We can all use those things. There is just one specific benefit I would add to her list:

*7. Provides greater assurance that you will remember what you actually went into to the grocery store to buy.

As our lives seem to gain greater speed with each passing moment, we can make the most of our time if we organize our thoughts and purpose. List making is a terrific tool to do just that.

If you are needing a place to start each day or a boost to your morale, list away. Plan your day around your To-Do’s. Be sure to add one No-Doubt task. (This is a task there is not doubt you will do.) Marking that one thing off your list will propel you forward successfully.

My friend Lori always starts her lists with something she has already done, so that she can feel accomplished before she ever gets started. 🙂

Energy that has purpose, like the initiative found in lists, provides positive reinforcement for facing daily challenges.

Steadily working your way through your To-Do’s is definitely the fast track to earning your very own spot on the “Nice List” (at least the Nice-to-Yourself List).

By: Melanie A. Peters

Source: Barron, Carrie, MD. “How Making Lists Can Quell Anxiety and Breed Creativity.” Psychology Today. Psychology Today, 9 Mar. 2014. Web. 23 Dec. 2016. <;.


15 thoughts on “The Psychology of Making Lists

  1. I love thinking of listmaking as a mental health habit! Great observations!
    The first item on my list is
    Make a List. Then when my list making is finished, I can immediately cross off one item.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. My step daughter makes lists all the time. Sometimes I worry that she spends more time making lists than she does at completing anything on her list. She’s 15 and has some anxiety issues and making a list seems to somewhat calm her. I believe she has a list of all her lists that she try’s to keep track of and I am starting to wonder if this might be some form of OCD for her. She says it helps her and it makes her feel better to have a list.
    I need a list so I don’t forget what I go to the store for and sometimes in the summer I’ll make a list of what I’d like to get done around the house throughout the summer months. I support having having lists as it does seems to help keep things on track.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s what she says, “it helps keep her calm”. I say whatever works, we all have something different and that’s what makes life interesting. Finding out or hearing about someone else’s success could inspire someone else to try it to.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It can also be so helpful to have pen/paper at the bedside so when you think of something that needs to be done the next day, writing it down actually is a sleep aid rather than lying there wondering if you’re going to forget it. Same goes for when I’m having a quiet time with the Lord in the morning, or even if you’re trying to enjoy a movie. Having a place to “write it down” puts the screaming task to rest so I can be in the present more effectively.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s