Better Than Bullet Journaling: 3 Lists You Need To Handle Life Like a Boss

April 18, 2023

Writing Lists

We all know (and love) the mighty ‘To Do” list around these parts. But while it serves as a satisfying side-kick to be ticked off as the tasks of the day are conquered, there are some other lists that have overtaken the to-do list in the “allowing me to kick ass” department. Today, I share them with you.

We’re going to be covering three areas: focus, balance, and wellness. Sounds good, right? You might not consider yourself an avid list-maker (I didn’t), but after incorporating the below into your life, I guarantee you’ll at least be able to recognize their benefits. You might not turn into the queen of organization, but you’ll have definitely warmed to the idea.

These aren’t one-off lists either. A daily to-do is tossed once the tasks are complete, meaning the benefits are short-lived. These lists are different. They’re active lists that you interact with on a daily basis in some instances. You keep them handy and refer to them. You build a relationship with them. That sounds bizarre, but what I mean is that you need to think of them as your thoughts down on paper. That means they are literally a part of you that you need to respect and care for. I never thought I’d personify lists like this, but there you go–I guess I’m list-obsessed now!

Through practicing the below lists, I’ve become more focused and intentional, and I have saved a lot of time and stress. So without further ado, let’s do this.

First up: The Brain Dump.

A Brain Dump is exactly what it sounds like: getting all of those things clogging up your brain out of your head and onto a piece of paper (or phone, or computer as you wish). This can be everything from tasks you know you have to do, to appointments you have to make, to research you want to conduct about things you’re curious about, and so on. It’s every little thing that you spend at least a few moments a day actively or passively pondering.

There are two ways of writing a Brain Dump. The first is to open up your notebook and simply write it all down, bullet point-by-bullet point. You might find that this constant flow allows you to find relief more quickly. However, the alternative is to make your list in categories, making sure you’ve tackled each category’s worth of thoughts before moving on to the next. Category examples might be:

  • Appointments to make
  • Projects to start/work on
  • Friends to hook up with
  • Things to discuss with my partner/family
  • Things to research
  • Random errands

So try both methods and see which you prefer. Chances are as you’ve read this you’ve already had an inclination as to which feels best to you. For me, I write it all as it comes.

There’s something so therapeutic about getting everything out of your brain. It frees up space, allowing you to get focussed, get creative or get relaxing! I now do these every weekend as I think about the week ahead and then mini work-related ones at the start of each work day.

Next, The Wishlist.

This list is a minimalist’s best friend. It’s also great for your bank account. The way it works is that when you have a thought about something you’d like to buy (that isn’t an essential like toilet paper or gas), you record it on your wishlist. I use OneNote and have pages for different categories. One is clothing, another beauty, another homeware, etc. You add to the lists as you go and only buy something if, after going back to your list a week later, you still want it.

Obviously, the timeframe is flexible, so use your judgment. The amount of time you wait doesn’t necessarily need to be one week but some interval of time you honor. Give yourself the time and distance you need to regain perspective on whether you still actually want that thing or whether the desire was just an impulse. Then, take these lists with you when you go shopping for such items to ensure your purchases are those things that you truly want.

Last, but certainly not least: The “What Can I do Right Now?” List

These lists utilize your forward-thinking and planning to offer a relief tool when you most need one. We’re talking about those times of feeling down, stuck or in need of immediate action to jump-start your system. There are many variations on this list. You might want to choose one (or all) of the below few examples:

  1. What Can I do Right Now to Feel Better?
  2. What Can I do Right Now to Actualize My Goals?
  3. What Can I do Right Now to Make the World a Better Place?

For the first example, the idea is that you compile a list of all the activities you enjoy doing. That way, when you’re having a bad day, you can refer to the list and not even have time to dwell. Things on the list include might include: baking, going for a walk in the park, doing yoga, calling a friend, taking a bath, or one of many other examples of free or inexpensive mood-boosters.

For the second, have a think about tiny, bite-sized action steps you can take to help you get one step closer to your goals. If you want to travel the world, points might include researching places to go, doing your daily Duolingo, creating an inspiration board, and so on. If your goal is to start your own business, bite-sized action steps could include perusing educational reading material, networking, reaching out to mentors, etc.

For the third, consider helping an elderly neighbor take their trash out, watching a documentary, or experimenting with DIY, non-toxic cleaning products right from your kitchen cupboard.

Start living by these lists and you’ll be amazed how much more balanced your life becomes. Regain clarity and start living more intentionally.

Have you tried making any of these lists?

Also by Kat: Sunday Rituals for Reflection and Improvement

Related: We’ve Been Planning Our Workday All Wrong, According To Productivity Gurus

5 Science-Backed Ways Spring Cleaning Changes Your Life (No Kondo-ing Needed)

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Kat Kennedy is an Arizona-based physiology doctoral student and holistic health advocate writing about science, health, and her experiences as a third culture kid and global nomad. She's @sphynxkennedy everywhere.


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