List Maker? One Simple Tweak Will Boost Your Productivity

Oh, how I love a good list. 

You know what I’m talking about, right? Getting it all out of your head and onto paper feels amazing.  

It turns that churning brain swirl into something tidy, manageable, and best of all, shrinkable. If you’re like me, you even sneak in an already-done task like “organize my day” so you’ve got something to cross off your list right away. (Don’t be embarrassed, research confirms that little starter item makes you more productive by creating momentum).

But what about the goals on the list that are a little bit meatier? Tasks and goals that are harder to do can require some encouragement.

I will go to the gym.
I will ask for a raise.
I will stand up for myself today.
I will tackle that project once and for all.

When something feels a bigger, we bolster ourselves by taking a stand and tacking on those two little words…

I WILL.

But here’s the surprise.  That bolster actually makes it harder for you. 

In a 2010 study published by the University of Illinois, researchers discovered that “I will” statements trigger a defensive response in the brain.  

In other words, when one half of you says I WILL, the other half usually says YOU CAN’T MAKE ME.

Here’s the cool part.

They also discovered that by simply flipping the word order from I WILL to WILL I, that same emotional brain, sparked by the challenge, is now motivated to respond YES.

This Week: 
Flip it 

  • As you make your list this week, notice any tasks that feel important, big or daunting.

  • Test those with a WILL I question.  (Will I go to the gym? Will I ask for a raise? Etc…)

  • If you feel that surge of YES, I WILL!,  attach a when. By carving out a specific time you’ll further increase the likelihood of accomplishing this goal by another 60%.

  • If however, your response to WILL I? feels more like a NOPE, keep making the task smaller until you get to a YES and then pop it onto the schedule. (Ex: Will I go to the gym? NOPE.  Will I take a walk? YES! When? At lunchtime.)


Will you?