If you’re like most people, you’re not satisfied with your to-do list. It’s always growing, never done, and a constant source of stress. But it’s also an inevitable part of your work life, right?

Maybe so, but it doesn’t have to be so painful. Instead of an endless list of tasks, entrepreneur Robyn Scott has a great trick that will completely change how you think about your to-dos. Her suggestion: Make your tasks emotional. Create a few categories that appeal to how doing that task makes you feel. For example: “highly helpful” for introductions and advice giving, “basic decency” for thank you notes and keeping promises, or “massive relief” for tax returns and booking travel.

When trying this for your to-do list, Scott suggests to:

  1. Make the emotion dramatic. I’ve used ‘triumphant,’ ‘massive relief,’ etc. This increases the allure. It also helps rule out tasks you shouldn’t be putting on your list in the first place. If you’re adding a task that’s not important, difficult, helpful, or nasty enough to deliver more than neutral feelings on completion, you think twice.

    2. Experiment with fun and fear. At the moment, all the states or emotions on my list are positive. But I’ve had some success using terms like ‘avoids physical and psychological meltdown,’ ‘keeps you on the right side of the law.’

After giving this new method a go with my own to-do list, I found that using emotion-focused tasks helped me avoid procrastination and increased my satisfaction because it associates why I’m doing the task with the to-do list item itself. Just those few little words help harness a different kind of motivation, and with it, a promise of positive feelings. Because, in the end, who doesn’t want to feel highly helpful?



Photo of sticky notes courtesy of Shutterstock.