Michelle Obama uses them to stay organised, Bill Gates says they’re essential, Benjamin Franklin loved making them, and Umberto Eco said they were ‘the origin of culture’.
We’re talking, of course, about lists. They’ve been around for centuries, and their origins can be traced back to ancient civilizations. According to Eco, lists are a manifestation of our human need for order and understanding in a world that can be chaotic and unpredictable. They allow us to make sense of the world, preserve our memories and give meaning to our existence. They can also empower us to understand and conquer the complexities of life, making us feel in control and capable.
Like, for example, at the grocery store. We’ve all made lists to help keep our mind on track when confronted with the endless aisles and shelves of products screaming for our attention. Or to prioritise a series of tasks that need to be completed on an intense day in the office. Most of us have also, at one time or another, used them for grander visions, like in the creation of a bucket list, or a written statement of our ultimate life goals. Essentially, they help us make sense of things, and bring structure and purpose to chaos and confusion.
Beyond their practical usefulness, creating a to-do list can be both a form of self expression, and an act of self care. There’s a deep satisfaction that can be derived from crossing off completed tasks, with studies showing that this act can release dopamine in the brain, providing a sense of fulfilment and happiness.
These days, there’s no shortage of apps and tools to help you digitally create lists. However, using a physical notebook and pen brings an altogether different and more beneficial experience. It has been proven, for example, that taking handwritten notes actually trains our memory and stimulates intelligence. Plus, a notebook can be taken with you wherever you go, with a limitless battery life, so you can easily add or refer to your tasks on the move, wherever you are! There is also the issue of digital to-do lists having infinite space, and being stored forever in the cloud. The idea of being reminded of the ‘list of things we never did’ could be anxiety-inducing for some people.
While some may say they don’t have time to sit down and write their lists by hand, it’s important to remind ourselves that any time spent engaging in an enjoyable or fulfilling activity isn’t time wasted.
Creating a handwritten list in a notebook is not just about organising the things you need to do. It’s about slowing down, and being mindful of the present. They say our handwriting is as unique as our fingerprints. So why not take a moment for yourself today, pick up a pen, and practise some self-care in the most inimitable way possible?