Why your brain will love an ordered to-do list

Some use a diary/calendar, others use a whiteboard (me) and some use one of the endless online programmes to manage their day.

Many still use pen and paper! Whatever your way of managing your to-do-list you’ll appreciate it can, at times, reach breaking point and so can you. So, my question is; does your to-do list make you stressed or anxious?

How do you even begin to get through it?

More work is coming in; deadlines are approaching…


If you’re a business owner there’s little doubt you’ll have multiple responsibilities in all areas of your work and life. A to-do list is an essential tool for anyone with a plethora of ‘jobs’ that need doing.

It’s likely you may even have multiple to-do lists and / or rely on memory. If that’s the case you may well be missing deadlines or whole tasks, creating too much noise in your mind and burning yourself out just trying to juggle them all.

Maybe you don’t like to have a to-do list as it only adds to the anxiety that you’ve got too much to do?

But, writing it down allows you to really see what needs doing so you can begin prioritising and often, see that it’s really not that bad.

When you write down what’s on your mind, it helps your brain to unload some baggage, giving it room to think about other things. Stop fighting it and fall in love with the idea of an ordered to-do list.

Psychologist and author Dr David Cohen puts our love of to-do lists down to three reasons: they dampen anxiety about the chaos of life; they give us a structure, a plan that we can stick to; and they are proof of what we have achieved that day, week or month.

Eat the frog

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying ‘eat the frog’? It’s basically encouraging you to get on with the task that you least want to tackle, or that’s going to take up most of your time, get it out the way and you’ll free your mind and your to-do list.

Professors Baumeister and Masicampo from Wake Forest University showed that, while tasks we haven’t done distract us, just making a plan to get them done can free us from this anxiety. 


This is where the fun starts

Whatever your choice of logging your tasks let’s make a start on reducing any stress and anxiety that may be coming with your to-do list. This challenge will take a matter of minutes; investment of time is often needed to enable you to see the wood for the trees, so, let’s go…..

Step one:

Consolidate the to-do lists, if you have multiple ones. If you have just one, let’s start afresh, this time with three columns titled:

  • 1. End of week:
  • 2. End of month:
  • 3. Delegate:

Pop all of your tasks into one of the three headings.

Step two:

Start all of the tasks that need doing by the end of the week and complete step three when you’re done.

Step three:

Re-prioritise all of the tasks in the column headed up: ‘End of month’. Some can now go into the ‘End of week’ column and you can start on those now, or next week.

Step four:

Feel righteous. Your to-do list is looking better already because it’s in a manageable order. Repeat steps two to four every week.


I think for many, paper and pen remain the best way to write down what we need to attend to. If this is you, then try adding an A for ‘action’ to any points that need your attention, so you can skim through your endless notes and just pick out what needs to be done.

What I don’t recommend is using a to-do/task list within your email app. I think you would benefit from having something completely separate so that you’re not distracted by the noise of continuous incoming emails.

If you take on the challenge, let me know how you get on: catherine@delegatevirtualassistant.co.uk