By Cindy Dampier
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Psychologist and author Stephanie Sarkis says that when it comes to the to-do list, you need to learn to think small. “Big goals are stressful for the brain,” says Sarkis. “It’s much less stress for the brain if you give it a small task with a reward than if you give it a big task.” In other words, ditch those big-ticket to-do lists.
It’s January, the National Month of Feeling Bad About Yourself. I know this, because holiday decorations, which have been spreading cheer and those parasitic glitter specks since October, have now given way to new, seasonally appropriate displays, like racks of athletic shoes (hey, what happened to those cozy slippers?!) and self-help books (should you ignite your life, stop denying your greatness, or jump on the Swedish death-cleaning bandwagon?)
As is my annual custom, I reject the self-help of others. Instead, I make a to-do list.
If you follow the hallowed tradition of the New Year’s to-do list, I salute you in the spirit of this season.
Because, basically, there is no quicker path to the heart of January despair than that little yellow Post-it full of Big Things we need to get done.
My lists will be decorating my desk, my kitchen counter and occasionally the fridge all season long, cheerfully taunting me about all that I am not getting done as I race past on the way to do something else. Some of them will slowly slink away into notebooks and pockets and other places where I will discover them, months later, with a nostalgic rush of pure panic. No, I still haven’t reconfigured my kitchen storage. Or dealt with the years of photos on my phone/computer.
As celebratory as all this sounds, I’m willing to admit that there might be a better way. Which is why I called up Stephanie Sarkis, a psychologist and author who has written about something called the Zeigarnik effect.