The first item on Alexandra Franzen's to-do list for Thursday was drink two big glasses of water.
We overlook the easy wins when crafting our to-do lists, says the author of the newly released The Checklist Book, and we shouldn't: when we accomplish something, even something small, that feeling of satisfaction stimulates the body to release dopamine and initiates a chain reaction of behaviours geared towards keeping the dopamine flowing. It's an understanding of human physiology that Facebook has unashamedly exploited. Why not use it to our own advantage?
But first, it's important to get the language right. Franzen doesn't call the ultimate productivity and life happiness hack, a "to-do list." It's a checklist. The language (and exuberant use of check marks) makes a world of difference.
"Our tendency is to cram our list with task after task," says Franzen. "We don't leave much breathing room in the day for experiences. And yet, we all know that at the end of the day, it's the experiences that matter." Franzen's checklist includes the key tasks she has prioritized for the day—that's how the self-employed writer has written more than a half dozen books, developed websites and completed client projects. But it also includes random items, things she calls "moments"—the experiences she wants to create space for that have nothing to do with accomplishment—watching the sunset, taking a few moments in silence or prayer, walking barefoot on the sand.