6 Weird To-Do Tips to Improve Your Mood and Productivity

You get more done when you enjoy what you do, so when your workday is a slog, it's easy to fall behind. Or maybe your work environment is fine, but your to-do list needs tweaking. Not every task is fun, but you can make simple changes to boost your mood, foster creativity, and keep your energy up.

Here are six changes you can apply to your to-do list that will increase your energy and productivity at work!

1. Phrase Tasks as Questions

This turns the task into a challenge, which creates a more active response than a flat order. For example, writing your to-do not as “Finish drafting report” but “Can you draft 500 more words today?” It also creates a dopamine rush when you finish the task, because it feels better to say “Yes, I can!” than to simply dismiss a completed task.

Phrasing it as a question also makes it easier to get specific, which makes the task easier to follow through on. This is because if you imagine someone asking you a vague question like “Can you do the report?” you would naturally ask for more information about what's expected. Similarly, it helps you set reasonable goals.

2. Gamify the List

Tackling a long task list can feel like a battle, so why not turn it into a fighter game? You can use an app like Task Fighter, a browser app that links with your Google Calendar.

It uses your to-dos as antagonists in a classic arcade fighter. If fantasy RPG is more your thing, try Habitica. It is a pixel-like game in which your character levels up by completing tasks and battling procrastination monsters.

Gamifying your tasks brings the addictive and mood-boosting properties of gaming into your workday. Levelling up or defeating an antagonist can be a good source of motivation, as well. When work feels too much like work, try gamifying it!

Download: Habitica for Android | iOS (Free, subscription available)

Download: Task Fighter for Chrome (Extension)

3. Spread Your List Out—Literally!

If you work from home, try splitting a paper to-do list into Post-It Notes that you can place around the house. For example, if you refill your coffee at the end of your lunch break, try putting a Post-It for your after-lunch task on the coffee maker. This way, you're seeing the reminder in a place where you can react right away.

If you have a smart speaker, it's even easier. Try asking the assistant to remind you of a task when you perform a certain trigger, such as reaching a location. You can also use Routines for this.

Related: How to Use Google Assistant Routines to Automate Your Entire Day

If you often walk into a room and forget what you were supposed to do in there, this tip might help a lot! You can also add in notes of encouragement for yourself in random places, or ask your family members or roommates to pitch in with some.

4. Do Something You Enjoy

Give yourself some love through your to-do list by including tasks that energize you. Make time for fun and relaxation throughout the week by adding tasks like “bake cookies” to your list. The addition of tasks you enjoy doesn't have to derail your workday. It might surprise you how many mood-boosting, creative, or energizing activities you can accomplish in five minutes!

If you have trouble thinking of ideas, think about things you enjoyed when you were a kid, like drawing a picture or running downhill. You could also take a couple of minutes to more fully enjoy something you're already doing. For instance, closing your eyes to really enjoy the music you're listening to.

Checking these fun tasks off is amusing and can boost your mood. Looking forward to it as you go through your list can be great motivation, too. If you use a digital planner, you could color-code or tag these to-dos to help them stand out.

5. Write It Like a Letter to Your Future Self

Do you feel tired just from looking at a normal checklist? Try injecting some creative writing, and write it as a letter to your future self. Congratulate them on all they've accomplished. For example: “Dear future me, congratulations on finishing the to-do tips article today! I knew you could do it. Also, you're welcome for doing the laundry. I bet it's nice to see the floor again!”

The added silliness can be a fun mood booster and break up an otherwise dreary work day. It also is motivating, since you remind yourself of what you stand to gain from completing the tasks. It is very different from a normal format, though. One way to balance this is to add highlights or bold to the tasks you mention, to help them stand out.

Your mileage may vary, though. If you don't often do creative exercises, it may be confusing to read your tasks as if they're already done. If you can wrap your head around time travel, though, it's a fun way to shake up your to-dos!

6. Keep a Victories List!

If you use a Kanban board, you might be doing this already. Keeping your finished to-dos in a Victories List gives you something to be proud of at the end of the day. This list can take many forms. It's easy if you use a typical checklist, where you check off or strike through completed tasks. In that case, the list itself can become a victory list. This is more effective with paper, since the physical act of striking or checking a task is satisfying.

Another way is to use Post-It Notes or scraps of paper and pin them up on a corkboard, whiteboard, or even the front of the fridge! If you use a digital to-do list, you can use categories and tags. Make a label, folder, or category for “Victories”, and move tasks there instead of archiving or deleting them. Then you can review them at the end of the day and feel good about your progress.

Add Some Levity to Your Tasks

Mood and energy are closely tied to productivity, so don't be afraid to add some fun to your to-do lists. It won't hurt your efficiency, and it might actually help. By using some weird or outside-the-box methods, you force your brain to process the tasks in a new way. This can boost creativity and innovation.

Every person's lifestyle and work needs are different. You should try out many different methods of task management to find the one that works best for you.