Balance purpose, relationships, and self-care

Empathy works. It always does.

Dopamine and my to-do list

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I love lists.

I love writing down what I want to get done, how much time it will take me to get it done, and especially crossing it off when it’s done. Hell, yeah, I’ll even write down a chore I have already finished. Just for the sake of crossing it off.

Since three weeks I include my daily routine of self-care on my to-do list. I consider self-care the most important investment in my work, so it is a high priority. I wanted to know how long those commitments actually take. Guess what the first item on this list is?

Getting up.

Just getting out of bed, getting dressed, making green tea.

Guess how I feel after three weeks crossing it off my list?

Delighted. Excited. Amused. Even if I didn’t succeed in getting everything done I wanted to get done, I did get one thing done, every day: getting up.

I giggle.

I am a winner, just by getting out of bed and getting dressed.

I also feel a bit embarrassed about my delight. Since when do I care about crossing off ‘getting up’? Aren’t there more important things in the world?

There are. No doubt about that.

And after I listen to Simon Sinek I get it.

It is not because it is so important. It is because of Dopamine.

Dopamine is the hormone that gets produced when we set goals and achieve them. The more visual the goal, the greater the satisfaction. As visual beings, we like to see what we are striving for, even if only in our imagination. Writing our commitments done is a visual act. That’s why it is such a happy feeling of relief and satisfaction, when we can cross things off. We accomplished our goal and the dopamine shot inspires us to get more things done.

Now I have scientific proof that to-do lists work.

And in that blissful knowledge, I update my list.

Author: Elly van Laar

I am a coach. I specialize in helping professionals schedule time for relationships and self-care. I have a Master's degree in Political Science, Leiden University, the Netherlands. I love meditation, walking, gardening, biking, and hanging out with family and friends.

4 thoughts on “Dopamine and my to-do list

  1. The important lesson I learn from you is how IMPORTANT it is to have a good start of the day and making it a point of your list is a good way to start POSITIVE instead of negative. thanx ellebel, your sister han

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    • Yes, I believe starting (and ending, for that matter) your day on a positive footnote helps. I always start with Thich Nhat Hanh’s morning gatha, even before I get out of bed: “Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each morning and to look at beings with eyes of compassion.” Even if I fail 100%, I recite it again the next morning. Just to remind myself of my intention.

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  2. blockquote, div.yahoo_quoted { margin-left: 0 !important; border-left:1px #715FFA solid !important; padding-left:1ex !important; background-color:white !important; } What a lovely way to start Friday! Inspired. I am understood and now I understand about my lists. Wonderful thank you! I hope you have a lovely day and weekend.  Love to you!Jen 

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

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