The simple list to help your brain know when to quit

For some of us, there’s no automatic thought barrier that goes up between work and play… most days, if I haven’t mentally closed off what I was working on, it ends up running in the background of my brain when I should be enjoying a good conversation, or playing my best game of Settlers of Catan yet.

So when I came across author Esme Wang’s “Simple list to change how you think about your day”, I knew it was the tool I needed to signify the difference between work and play.

The simple concept: write down all the things you accomplished for the day, so you can see it on the page and thereby tell your brain: “Hey, look at all the stuff we did. Tomorrow’s another day, so cool it.”

Esme calls it the Things I Did Today list, and it looks like this:

Today I did _________, and it accomplished ____________.

Sure, such a seemingly minor act may seem like it won’t make much of an impact, but science backs it up: your natural dopamine reward system gets activated by such simple solutions (which is a can of worms we opened in “Using dopamine for perseverance, the scientific way” a few weeks back.)

So whether your list is full of more routine tasks like “Today I took out the recycling and it accomplished the plastics not building up this week” or more meaningful ones like “Today I finished the quarterly analytics report, which accomplished my major spring term goal a week early”, you get to not only close off your day feeling good about what you got done but also feeling clear on where your work stands for when you pick it up again tomorrow.

Go ahead and play with the list a little bit, make it work for you. But ultimately, if you’re like me and need a signal for your brain to sign off and go and have its recoup time, this list may be just the thing you need.

Photo Cred: Esmé Weijun Wang (http://journal.esmewang.com/a-simple-list-that-can-change-how-you-think-...)

Written by Carly Walde