The Amazing Side Benefit of Writing a Daily To-Do List
Take five minutes to make your days and nights more smooth.
We’ve all been there, kept awake and tossing and turning because we’re anxious about what challenges the next day will bring. But a recent study found that if you spend just five minutes putting together a to-do list to tackle in the morning, you might go to sleep more quickly.
The team of researchers tried to figure out if the to-do lists would lead to more or less concern about the following day’s tasks. They monitored a group of university students as they slept during weeknights in the lab. The students were split into two randomly selected groups and given two different five-minute writing assignments.
One group wrote down everything they needed to do the next day and the other group was asked to write about what they had accomplished within the past few days.They also had strict bedtimes -- 10:30 p.m. -- and they were not allowed to use electronics or do any additional work.
"We live in a 24/7 culture in which our to-do lists seem to be constantly growing and causing us to worry about unfinished tasks at bedtime," said lead author Dr. Michael K. Scullin in a summary of the findings. "Most people just cycle through their to-do lists in their heads, and so we wanted to explore whether the act of writing them down could counteract nighttime difficulties with falling asleep."
The results of the study found that the participants who wrote the to-do lists fell asleep nine minutes faster than those who reflected on what they had done earlier in the week. Additionally, the more specific the list, the quicker people fell asleep.
While the study had a small sample size of just 57 students, the researchers say that they would be interested in applying the experience in a broader context.