This Is How You Hack Your Checklist for Maximum Productivity

When you feel productive, you’re primed to succeed.

A. Aud
6 min readNov 17, 2020


Photo by Breakingpic from Pexels

I love checklists.

It wasn’t always the case. I used to store most stuff in my head, and mentally mark my tasks as completed. But as more and more stuff started piling up on my plate in the last few months — that’s when I realized I needed checklists in my life. I have a hard time being productive without at least a small set of tasks that I can cross off, leaving me feeling accomplished.

If you’re like me and also love your checklists, you probably know how good it feels to check items off them. Accomplishing something triggers a release of dopamine and using a list helps materialize this feeling visually.

The satisfaction of ticking off a small task is linked with a flood of dopamine. Each time your brain gets a whiff of this rewarding neurotransmitter, it will want you to repeat the associated behavior. (Ralph Ryback M.D. — Psychology Today)

As my notebook gradually filled up with checklists over the last few months, I gravitated towards adding cool little features to them. Each of these helped increase my output by simply making me more eager to check the next to-do item.

Without further ado, here are all the ways I use to personalize my checklists. Many of these take advantage of the most satisfying part of using checklists — checking off items — to hack your brain into getting more done. Others help add structure. Feel free to pick and mix as you see fit.

1. Put absolutely everything in your list

If you’re like most people, work-related tasks are not all you do during your day. Yet it can be easy to just put what we feel is “productive” into our plan — tasks that result in us getting paid, for instance. But that also means we might perceive ourselves as not achieving as much during a given day.

If you usually only include tasks related to your work, try adding in more mundane items as well, like cooking, cleaning, picking up the kids. That gives you the chance to check off more tasks and rewards you for all the important stuff that you do during your day, not only brain-intensive work. Having more boxes…