Get Motivated: Using Lists to Create a Balanced Daily Schedule

I don’t really like the word “motivate” at all. To me, it seems like a dressed-up “should,” which is on my least-favorite-words list, and carries with it a sense of dread and obligation: I need to motivate myself to go jogging. You need to motivate yourself to do your homework. Let’s get motivated to clean the house. None of these things sound particularly inspiring (to me, anyway. If you love cleaning, kudos to you. Also please feel free to come over and sprinkle your motivated cleaning magic all over my house anytime).

That noted, it can sometimes be useful to look at finding motivation as simply identifying a place to begin, and beginning each day with a list is my favorite behavior-based tip. My own mother swore by lists to keep herself organized when I was younger, and I can’t imagine getting any day started without one. My own version is a bit more therapist-y, including not only what needs doing in the day, but also making space for things I want to do, and ways to take care of myself.  My go-to is the paper-and-pen variety, for easy marking and crossing-off-of-things. (Can you cross things off on an Iphone? Probably). You do whatever works for you.

To begin a motivating morning list-making practice, allot a few minutes at the beginning of each day. List out everything that you need to do (Groundbreaking, yes?). Now, list out everything that you’d like to do, but perhaps often don’t allow enough time for. Then organize things in terms of:

  • Must-do activities (going to work, attending to appointments)
  • Activities that take care of you (moving your body, cooking yourself a delicious dinner)
  • Activities that take care of others (cleaning up the house, caring for your family)
  • Restorative activities (like a yoga class, a meditation break, a phone call with a friend, etc.)

Of course, there may be some overlap between the categories, but the objective here is to reach for balance.

Now, put a star next to the activities that absolutely must get done today. Try to prioritize a number of activities that you can actually comfortably achieve within one day, and, if you can bring yourself to, allow the rest to fall to tomorrow. I know. It can often feel like the world is going to explode if everything is not completed to perfection Right Now Today, but I assure you that’s just your Anxious Part nudging at you and probably not reality. It is likely that most of the activities on your list are not world-ending-if-not-completed. To illustrate: One of my favorite podcasts recently recommended identifying FOUR things to accomplish within the course of a day. Four. This blew my mind, as it was about sixteen things less than was on my typical daily list (and on yours, I might expect). I’m not down to four things per day, but I have pared down my expectations of how many things I’m doing in one day. Amazingly, nothing has fallen apart yet. Conclusion: You probably think you need to complete more in a day than is actually necessary. Pare it down, and see what happens.

Now, create a list that is varied between the categories. Try to create a schedule that includes a mix of activities from each category in your list. (If you’re on the magical four-activities-per-day plan, that’s one activity from each category). If your list leans too heavily in any category, or lacks another completely, take a moment to consider what changes, if any, might be beneficial. If you find your list is exclusively Must-Do Activities, consider if you may be over-scheduling yourself. Are you working all day, every day, like so many of us are? If so, are there any changes that can be made to create space for other things? Similarly, if your list lacks any Restorative Activities, is it possible to add in one tiny activity just for you today, and see how it turns out? Again, pay attention to what must be completed, versus what can be moved to tomorrow’s list without much consequence. If you must make the choice between vacuuming the house and giving yourself a fifteen minute restorative reading break at the close of a long workday…well, my vote’s on the reading break, every time.

Practice making this list each morning, as a touchstone to begin your day and “get motivated”. See what information it gives you about how much you are doing in a day, and what types of activities you typically prioritize. Consider potential changes. Taking a few intentional moments to list-make each morning sets you up for a daily schedule that is mindful and balanced.

Originally posted on my blog, Common Humanity, at Psych To read more, visit


Useful Information

Some frequently asked questions and useful answers.

Online therapy works in the same way as in-office therapy, but is done online, similar to a Skype or FaceTime conversation. Clients are able to have sessions from home, work, or any other convenient location. We meet with clients using a HIPAA-compliant secure platform.

Online therapy allows you to work with us from the comfort of home, or any private location of your choosing. For some, the screen provides an added layer of comfort that makes the challenging work of being vulnerable in therapy a little easier.

Online therapy also creates the unique opportunity for you to work with us without the constraints of proximity! The practice was born in Keene, New Hampshire, but has since grown to service clients anywhere in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, Florida, and New Hampshire.

Online therapy is a great option for clients that travel for work, for college students that go home during the summertime and do not want a break in their sessions, and for anyone with a challenging or inconsistent day-to-day schedule. It is an excellent choice for clients seeking a therapist with a particular specialty that they are unable to find support for locally. Some of our clients report that online therapy makes the vulnerability element of therapy a bit less intimidating.

No. For some clients with more complex symptoms or safety concerns, having a local therapist that is readily available is important in case of crisis or the need for a higher level of care. Online therapy is also a challenge for clients that do not have access to a private, quiet space to be “in session” for the hour, or for those that do not have adequate internet connectivity.

There are several reasons why we don’t accept insurance. The most important are:

Confidentiality. Insurance companies require that your information be shared with them in order to pay for services. We prefer that clients’ information is kept as confidential as possible.

The pressure to diagnose. Insurance companies require that clients are given a mental health diagnosis in order to pay for therapy. We have found that many clients benefit from therapy, but do not meet criteria for a diagnosis. Not using insurance allows clients to access therapy without being given a mental health diagnosis.

Flexibility and freedom. Insurance companies dictate the length and number of sessions they will authorize, as well as when a client is no longer eligible for the benefits of therapy. Because we do not work with insurance panels, you and we can collaborate to determine your individual needs regarding session length, frequency of sessions, and when to terminate therapy.

While we do not accept insurance, many clients choose to submit receipts to their insurance companies to receive reimbursement via out-of-network benefits. We are happy to provide these receipts for you! Please check with your insurance company for details on your benefits.



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