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How Using Lists Can Help Improve Executive Functioning

Using a daily list to get through your day can be an effective way to focus and keep on top of the things you have to do to function. Every time you cross something off the list, it gives a surge of dopamine to your brain’s reward center, giving you a feeling of accomplishment. Rewards are in the mundane daily things that help you function, not just the big things. The ideas here may seem simplistic and unnecessary in some people’s eyes, but executive function deficit is real and lists can help combat it.

Put everything on your list

Start with a solid morning routine of tasks to get you up and ready for the day. Once you have this under your belt, begin to add tasks from other areas of your life.

A daily morning routine could look like:

  • Make your bed
  • Run bath/start shower
  • Prepare towels for after
  • Take bath/shower
  • Dry off, get dressed
  • Clean teeth
  • Breakfast
  • Wash breakfast plates
  • Put plates away

Use a dedicated app that repeats tasks

Use an app like “Regularly” that gives you options for when to repeat the task. For example, if you usually only shave when you start to look like a wizard even though you wish you could stick to a routine of every three days, put it on a repeating list.

If you tend to forget something, put it on the list

If you tend to forget anything you have to do — I mean anything — put it on the list!

Put everything you do each day on the list

Yes, you will have long lists, but it can also help you recognize why you struggle with things. There really is so much to do and remember in a day just to function. It’s not just the tasks you have to think of, a lot of the time it’s the actual process to complete the task that can makes it overwhelming and leave you unable to do it.

Getty image by Gaudilab.