Listful Thinking: How Making Lists Can Boost Your Health
Not only are lists used in therapy, but they can also be used to get other aspects of your health in check. When I first started my blog, I wrote a post about how doctors use checklists in the operating room, and I got a great comment back from a family friend named Kate. She’s a full-time teacher and a mother of three kids. She mentioned that having a list actually saved her life.
Yep, you heard me right. The act of writing something down reminded her to do something crucial, which prolonged her life. Amazing, right? She told me that between her children, work and personal life, she’s constantly running here and there. It was a to-do list that stopped her for a moment and reminded her to make her annual doctors’ appointments.
“I found out that I have a precancerous condition that doctor care and precautionary measures are helping me to reduce my chances of developing advanced breast cancer further down the line. Who knew that a simple list reminding me to make that call … make that visit … could save my life? And yet, I believe it just may have,” she wrote to me.
Cancer survivor and author of Getting Things Off My Chest: A Survivor’s Guide to Staying Fearless and Fabulous in the Face of Breast Cancer, Melanie Young started her journey with a notebook from a friend.
“[My friend] said really keep this notebook, and make it a work list. And she gave me some questions to ask the doctor, and I took those lists and others to the first doctors and then to all my doctors when I was looking for a breast surgeon. And then, from that, I kept making more lists,” she explains.
So many lists, in fact, that Melanie decided to write her own book to empower newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. Friends asked her for her checklists when they were diagnosed. Because she did a lot of research and was organized, Melanie’s lists were a valuable aid.
Going to any doctor’s appointment equipped with a list will help you stay focused and enable you to leave with all the information you were seeking. I’ve left doctor’s offices before saying, “Oh, I meant to ask her this.” But when you’re a listful thinker, you will be sure to jot down concerns and take them with you to be addressed at your next appointment.
For routine checkups and major health issues, the payoff is the same. “I found this was very helpful for me and helpful for my friends who were going through the same jumble of emotions I had gone through,” Melanie says. The lists were “something that they could look at and focus on.”
At the beginning of the year I make a list of all the doctor’s appointments I need to make that year and the months they need to happen. Then I set reminders in my calendar so that I have zero excuses. Prevention could save my life — and yours.
Adapted from Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed (Viva Editions, 2015)