How List Writing Can Make You Happier

List writing sometimes gets a bad press, perhaps because of the endless hassle that To-Do lists create in some people’s minds.

But it doesn’t have to be that way and in fact I use lists as a very powerful process of reinforcing behaviors and feelings that ordinarily would escape my attention, or be soon forgotten. This process has also worked well with some of my coaching clients.

The idea is simplicity itself:

  1. Get a small notebook or diary that you can easily carry around without others noticing it.

  2. Write down at least one thing each day that made you feel happy. Something you heard, read, felt, touched or smelt. No matter how big or small, write it down and (optionally) any attendant thoughts or feelings.

  3. Do this for at least a month and read over your list once a week (or at least once a month). Then, if you feel so inclined, do it again the next month.

It’s easy to be skeptical about activities like this but I find it interesting to note how much some people rely almost unconsciously for their daily dose of wordsmithing from the mass media and advertising industries.

And after observing this data feed for a while I noticed how little of it made me happy. All the more reason to begin paying closer attention to what I (little ole me) found attractive and interesting in this world on a regular basis.

From a career coaching perspective this simple list making tool can also be applied in ways that help you notice more of the following:

  • What makes you angry at work?
  • Which work tasks are you good at?
  • Which work tasks are you not good at?
  • What could you improve?
  • What success do you want to achieve at work (and in life)?

Over time I’ve noticed that these types of lists are most effective when used with a coach (or a trusting and non judgmental partner / friend), as they become focal points for assessing current realities against desired outcomes.

Because although our dreams and imaginations are important allies in creating a welcoming future they have to be rooted in an understanding of what is practical and possible in the PRESENT moment. From there does change spring.


Start your very own happiness list and see how it goes for the next couple of weeks. It should only take about 5 minutes each day.

I treat my list as private and confidential and therefore sometimes use abbreviations and acronyms to disguise identities and locations.
Bear this in mind if you choose to take your list to your workplace; some discretion is advised.

PS: I started my current Happiness list on Monday 29 Sept and made a reminder to post about this again sometime in November.