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Be More Productive and Feel Better with an 'Emotional To Do List'

Do you find your to-do lists get forgotten? Do they get written down and yet at the end of the day - a majority of them stay there?

You may find an emotional to do list will help!

By identifying each emotion tied to each task, you can see them with a fresh perspective. Then you can begin the work of your thought processes; and use positive psychology to be happier, more productive, and more successful!

Research shows our emotions are often the cause of procrastination. And it makes sense when you think about it. If you’re excited to tackle something - there’s no stopping you. But if you’re bored, anxious, or sad about a task? There’s a million reasons to put it off.

So what can we do? We can start the journey to better mental health, more positive thoughts, and a more productive day with an exercise called an ‘emotional to do list’. Here’s how it works.

Cute stationery bad-ass to do list

1. Write down your regular to do list

Each day, or week, take your notepad or journal and jot down all the important things. All the urgent, important tasks to do this week. This can be a bit of a brain dump, but research suggests not to overwhelm yourself with tasks. Pick the most important ones to focus on.

2. Identify the emotion associated with each task

With each task, write next to it the emotion that comes up when you think about it. Call doctor for appointment? Maybe it’s anxious. Dinner with friends? Perhaps excitement. Buy groceries? Annoyance maybe? I suggest using anEMOTIONAL WHEEL to help you work through the various core emotions we feel, as they can often be quite hard to pinpoint.

3. Tackle the thoughts behind the emotions.

In positive psychology, it’s believed that your thoughts are the precursor to all actions. So after you identify the emotion felt behind each task, you can start to clarify the thoughts associated with it; and the corresponding actions. This is not easy, and will take lots of practice. 

In our example, the task was “Call dr for appointment”. The emotion was anxious. So what’s the thought? “I get nervous calling for appointments because I’m always afraid I’ll stay something stupid.” But if you try to push yourself to think different - positive - thoughts; what could they be? How about, “Calling the dr for an appointment takes just a few minutes and I’ll be thankful to have that task done. Plus they’re used to a hundred people calling a day; chances are I’m not going to say anything they haven’t heard.”

4. Identify true priorities with your why.

Once you have your fresh perspective with positive thoughts associated with your goal, you’re much more likely to accomplish your goals. You now have your true priorities mapped out. You want to call the dr because your goal of having that appointment done and over with is important. It’s now much easier to check that task off!

Mushroom Stationery blank Notepad


Simple practices like an emotional to do list, and adjusting our thoughts behind our emotions, help create a new healthy relationship with ourselves. And it helps teach us to be more productive and happy with our day. And ultimately, that’s why we have to do lists!