To-Do List for the Mind

My husband is a big fan of To-Do List apps. Ever since I met him, he’s tried to share an electronic to-do list with me. I’ve always resisted and instead created a to-do list on my iCalendar. 

Three months ago, when he asked me again to share an electronic to-do list with him, I finally agreed. Once the app was on my phone, I realized that I could create a To-Do list for my Mind! As a society, we take our to-do list very seriously and generally do what it tells us to do. We are driven by performance, and assign value to task completion. Most of us have been conditioned since childhood to use a to-do list.  For example, before my son could read, he had a to-do list on a magnetic board with pictures showing him what he needed to do each day.

To-do lists help us stay organized and focused on our goals. They are critical to our academic and professional success and make home-life easier. But what if we could use the format of the to-do list to help ourselves psychologically? What if we assigned as much value to the completion of our psychological list as we did to our task list? 

As I engaged the Microsoft To-Do List App, I was excited to write a list. However, instead of writing a task or grocery list, I wrote a list for my mind.

For most of my life, I’ve written the list for my mind in journals. Reading my list in the journal was sufficient but never exciting. Ten weeks ago, when I placed my list in the Microsoft To-Do List App, I felt excited about it for the first time. The format of the to-do list tricked me into assigning more value to my psychological list and as a result, I was more enthusiastic about completing it.

After running this experiment on myself, I asked my clients to try it and they experienced similar results.

How to Make and Use a To-Do List for the Mind

  1. Download your favorite To-Do list app onto your phone or computer. 
  2. Write out a list of positive thoughts that you want to develop.
  3. Read over the To-Do List for your Mind each morning before getting out of bed for 30-60 seconds.
  4. Allow the list to plant seeds in your mind and then water the seeds each morning by reading it over.
  5. Never check off the items from the list or put pressure on yourself to complete the list. I find it highly ineffective and discouraging to check off anything from this list.
  6. Allow the list to offer you gentle reminders to stay focused on the positive thoughts you want to develop.
  7. If you are someone who likes to cross off tasks from your to-do list, make a task to read over your ‘To-Do List for the Mind’ each morning.

Sample: To-Do List for the Mind

About the Author

Dr. Christine E. Dickson is a nationally recognized psychologist specializing in mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy. Her work has been featured in magazines, newspapers, and journals, and she’s been interviewed 14 times on local television. Dr. Dickson has over 20 years of experience as a clinical psychologist and works with clients virtually and in-person in the San Francisco Bay Area. If you would like to set up an appointment or contact her, please visit her website.

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