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5 Reasons to Start Every Day with a Simple Checklist

Woman making a checklist to start her day.
Lolostock/Shutterstock

In his book The Checklist Manifesto, surgeon Atul Gawande explains how checklists help professionals in the medical industry and beyond get things done. But you don’t need to be performing surgery or starting a long day of work to benefit from a checklist.

Even on your days off, a checklist can help you live your best life. The way you start your day sets the tone for the rest of it, and a checklist ensures you get off to a good start. Check out these benefits of starting your day with a written-down routine.

You’ll Reduce the Power of Distractions

For many of us, the logical first thing to do in the morning is to check our phones. New emails and social media notifications can pile up overnight, and it often feels easiest to tackle them right away.

However, that quick check can quickly turn into an hour-long session of mindless scrolling. A checklist can’t eliminate that temptation. But it can give you an incentive to put the phone down since you know you have a checklist to get started on.

You’ll Cut Down on Stress

Making a plan to accomplish things reduces stress since it provides order in a world that often feels chaotic. Research suggests that people perform better when they’re able to write down a plan for what needs to get done. Plus, a checklist lets you break down any task into manageable steps.

You’ll Remember the Small Stuff

Simple, important things, like drinking more water or exercising a bit each day, tend to get pushed aside for more pressing (or entertaining) priorities. But when you write these simple things down, you won’t forget them.

Thanks to the Zeigarnik effect, incomplete tasks tend to stick in our minds. Putting something on your checklist tells your brain that there’s something to remember, so the thought will stick with you until you get that thing done—no matter how small it is.

You’ll Cultivate a Sense of Accomplishment

With a checklist, you can get things done even before work and other responsibilities of the day kick in. Small accomplishments from your checklist, like a five-minute meditation or making the bed, will make you feel like your day is off to a good start. That feeling of accomplishment will motivate you to tackle bigger tasks fearlessly.

You’ll Reap the Benefits of Routine

A young man studying and achieving his goals thanks to good planning and an excellent checklist.
fizkes/Shutterstock

Many famously successful people swear by their routines. But you don’t need to be a CEO who rises at 4 a.m. to benefit from them.

Routines put your brain on autopilot since you don’t need actively to think about something you’ve done countless times. This lets your mind relax while you accomplish necessary things. A simple morning routine gives you a peaceful yet productive daily start, and a checklist helps you stick to it every day.

How to Create Your Daily Checklist

The right daily checklist will look different for everyone. However, we recommend creating a list of five to ten small things that you’d like to start each day with. They might include stretching, drinking tea, tidying your room, dancing to a favorite song, or whatever else helps you feel your best.

Make sure these tasks are simple and manageable and that you wake up with enough time to complete them without rushing. For example, if you need to be at work at 7 a.m., a checklist that takes an hour to achieve may not be realistic. Quick yet valuable tasks are best.

Then, write down your checklist or use an app, so you can actually check everything off each day. Someday, you might not need the physical checklist anymore. But for now, writing it down will ensure you commit your routine to memory.

Every night, you can go over your checklist for the next day and add any unique tasks you’d also like to accomplish. For example, if you need to schedule a dentist appointment, you can put that simple task on your checklist, so you’ll get it done quickly. Don’t hesitate to tweak your list to suit your life as it changes.

A checklist helps you tap into a perfect blend of peace and productivity that will stick with you for the rest of the day. Looking for more ways to get more done with less stress? Check out this secret to spending less time on your phone.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a Seattle-based writer and editor with a Master's in Writing Studies from Saint Joseph's University. Her work has appeared in publications like Racked, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Rum Punch Press. She was awarded a 2017 Writing Between the Vines residency.  Read Full Bio »

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