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Don’t write your to-do list—draw it


Photo: Green Chameleon/Unsplash
Photo: Green Chameleon/Unsplash

Walk the dog. Email the boss. 12 p.m. SoulCycle sign-ups. Buy a birthday gift for mom. Do laundry. Hit the gym. Foam roll!

If your to-do list seems never-ending, it’s no surprise you can’t remember what’s on it half the time. But the problem may not be that there’s too much on your daunting daily list—it may be that you’re writing it all down instead of having a little more fun with it.

A new study found that drawing your to-do list—as in sketching that laundry basket or a SoulCycle skull and crossbones—may be the most effective trick to help you remember all of your very important tasks, New York magazine reports.

A team of researchers from the University of Waterloo in Canada conducted a series of experiments that asked participants to write or draw certain words, and then assessed which group was more likely to remember what they wrote or drew later on. The team found that the subjects recalled more than twice as many words they’d drawn compared to words they’d written.

Why? The researchers suggest that drawing requires people to use a combination of skills they use separately in other tasks—so instead of just scribbling “apple,” the subjects spent time thinking about an apple, picturing an apple, and drawing an apple. “We believe that because drawing results in more interconnected memory cues to draw upon at recall, the memory trace for drawn words is much more likely to be effectively retrieved than when it was simply written, listed, visualized, or viewed at encoding,” the study authors wrote.

In the era of adult coloring books and a constant desire to improve focus, memory, and flow—whether it’s with omega-3s, meditatingjournaling, or via brain-boosting workouts—consider these daily drawings a creative and effective way to keep your life running smoothly.

And consider adding this to your next to-do- list: art classes.

Feeling a bit more artistic? You can boost your creativity with—believe it or not—tarot cards. And according to Elizabeth Gilbert, it’s not about having talent: making stuff (anything from scribbles to symphonies) is good for you.