The Science Behind Lists: how lists can optimize your performance

When you have a large number of tasks at hand, it can get pretty overwhelming. It gets to the point that as you go down and try to identify everything you have to do, it just gets too much and in the end nothing gets done. In many cases, you will find that changing how you approach your tasks will drastically change the perspective you have on your workload.


Breaking things down into smaller tasks make them much more manageable. Consider the following example. Your job is to clean your house after a party. There’s garbage everywhere, all your dishes are dirty and strewn about, and everything is sticky- you don’t even know where to begin. Well, taking the second to stop and figure it out can make all the difference.

Break down “clean the entire house” into smaller, more manageable tasks. First, move all the cans to recycling, next throw out the garbage, and so on. It sounds a lot less intimidating when you start to figure out what specifically needs to be done and make lists.

Breaking stuff down can make it a lot easier to process on the brain. It is a really simple concept when you break it down like that. For the most part, one big task is just a bunch of little tasks. They are even visually efficient. It’s kind of like how it’s easier to look at bullet points and take in the important information rather than trying to memorize a whole paragraph.

Think of lists as an outline for your day or your project. It is a great way to get your thoughts in order. While it may not necessarily change the task at all, it does help a lot with the psychological component of getting too overwhelmed to accomplish anything. That alone really helps pave the way to a better performance.

If you still are not sold on the benefits of incorporating lists into your life, you may want to consider the following findings:

List making helps people recall things better -and even eliminate age differences in mental recall tests investigating the performance of elderly patients

Planning out your activities can help alleviate you from the stress and anxiety of having so many unaccomplished tasks

While utilizing time management training in the workplace may not effect work performance, it does offer the possibility of enhanced job satisfaction

People who plan out their days and utilize time management techniques tend to report better memory performance

These are just a few reasons why many scientists encourage the implementation of some list making techniques.

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