Paula Rizzo joins To Your Good Health Radio to discuss how important something as simple as making a list can be for your health.
There is a therapeutic and calming effect to writing a list, explains Paula. Getting that thought out into a central location is freer and leads to a less stress-filled day.
Paula also explains how using lists to stay on top of your doctor’s appointments will keep you healthier as well. She shares her story about a woman who said a list saved her life because she had written on her to-do list to get a mammogram. She later found a pre-cancerous indication and had it treated right away.
Learn how to make your lists count and much more.
RadioMD Presents: To Your Good Health Radio | Original Air Date: March 26, 2015
Host: David Friedman, DC
Guest: Paula Rizzo
DR FRIEDMAN: Our next guest is an Emmy award winning television producer who focuses on health news. She's the founder of the productivity site, ListProducer.com and author of Listful Thinking: Using Lists to Be Highly Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed.
Welcome to the show, Paula Rizzo.
PAULA: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.
DR FRIEDMAN: Great topic. As I talked to you in the break, I'm a big believer in lists. I mean, everything from grocery shopping to writing down my goals, even my 5-year business plan. When I create a "to do" or deadline list, it actually frees up my brain and makes my life less stressful.
DR FRIEDMAN: Glad to you have you on. Let's see if I'm doing it right or how to actually incorporate lists for people that don't.
First, how did you become the "go to" coach for list making?
PAULA: I am also a big list maker like you, so it's sort of been running my life for years and I didn't realize how powerful it was. So, I wasn't really using them so much at home, but more so at work. I was looking for an apartment in New York City, so I was kind of inundated with information and didn't know where to look, what to do, and all these things. I thought, "You know what? I'm going to handle this the way that I would at work." You know, going out on a shoot and interviewing someone, I have a list of all the questions I need to ask; a list of all of the shots I need to get on the shoot; and, just have a checklist. So, that's what I did looking for the apartment. It was so much easier just to be able to have all of that stuff in one place. I didn't have to think about it when I walked through. I just asked my questions. "Okay. What floor is this on? What's the view like?" Preparing ahead of time was just helpful in that way and much to your point, it's not just about "to do" lists because that's what people think of when they think of lists. They think, "Oh, it's stuff to get done." But, there's so much more you can use it with.
DR FRIEDMAN: Yes. I used to use sticky notes. Then, I changed to a notepad. Now, I actually use my smartphone. But, here's the challenge. Maybe you can help me with my dilemma. The alerts are too easy to ignore compared to the sticky notes that I used to see on my desk every day looking at me in the face.
Is there a particular method or maybe even an app to make lists for smartphones easier?
PAULA: Yes. You write it down, which is great, but then you forget to look back to it or refer to it and you get all of these alerts, and then, it gets ingrained in your mind, "Oh, I'm going to ignore that alert," and never go back to it. But, that's definitely difficult. But, I think scheduling certain times to remind yourself to just say, "Hey, you know what? I have to look back at that list and see what's on it again." Then, getting into that habit. I also really like to put lists in certain places. Much like your keys, right? So, you know exactly where you're going to leave your keys so that you find them the next time you need them. I do the same things with an app. So, I have an app specific just for a list of restaurants that I want to try out. That's called "Matchbook" and that has all my restaurant recommendations; places I want to go in all cities. Then I have another list of books and good reads. Then, I'll use Evernote as great way to kind of get as much information in a filing cabinet for all of your stuff in one place. That's one that I really use a lot and I really, really love.
DR FRIEDMAN: See, the one on my phone just gives me 2 alerts and then it stops. And, if the phone is ringing and I pick the phone up and the alert is there, I just cut it off. I don't even read it and I answer the phone. I just lost my alert.
PAULA: I agree. I agree with that, too. We kind of get ingrained of just like, "Oh, let me…let me…I'll get to that later." And, you never go back.
DR FRIEDMAN: You never go back, you know?
PAULA: It becomes useless. Yes. Yes.
DR FRIEDMAN: Which brings up a big point is, you know, what about people that make lists and they forget to look at the list? Is there a list to say, "Hey, don't forget to look at your list"?
PAULA: Yes. You do have to make rules for yourself, to set yourself up for success. People are kind of anti- being rigid in that way, but it's a system that will set you up for success. So I would say, if you're making these lists, which is great that you're doing that first step. But then, you forget to look at it, you need to have some kind of system in place where maybe there's another alert. Maybe you send two or three alerts. Maybe it's a voicemail message that you leave for yourself and then maybe that's an annoying alert on your phone that you'll keep seeing those keep popping up.
DR FRIEDMAN: That's true.
PAULA: You know what? It's okay to do both. You can do digital and you can also still do paper. So, maybe the post-it note now says, "Check phone" or something like that.
DR FRIEDMAN: That's a good idea.
PAULA: As a way to have that right on your computer so it's in your face. So, just using them together can also be helpful.
DR FRIEDMAN: That makes sense. What about grocery lists? I would imagine that sticking to a defined grocery list would keep people eating healthier and not straying buying snacks and also would probably save them money because they're not impulsive. They just stick to the list.
PAULA: Sure, that's the thing. So, doing the preparation beforehand and kind of running through the week in your head and saying, "Okay. I'm going to be out that day, so I'm not going to make anything at home, but I can make something the next day." And, being able to get all the ingredients you need for each meal and that way when you come home from work and you're tired and not really feeling…like, "Oh, you know what? I could just get take out." Instead, you already have the food there, so you'll give into just using it so it doesn't go bad and in that way, you've had everything planned out beforehand. So, you know exactly how much you'll need and you're not buying things like, "Oh, look at this great avocado," and then you leave it in your fridge for "X" amount of days and then it's gone.
DR FRIEDMAN: Then, it's gone. That makes sense. That brings up another point that would be like meal planning. Maybe for the week, creating a weekly list of meals would make you probably less likely to order a pizza on impulse because you planned ahead and you can eat healthier and follow like, "Monday, I'm going to have that." That might be a way, as well. Correct?
PAULA: That's it, correct. Any time you can kind of do the preparation ahead of time. I even have lists of meals I know my husband and I really enjoy because sometimes, you know, it's like, "Oh, I make all the same things over and over and over again. What else can I make? What else can I make?" So, just having those two lists kind of does the work for you. It's like, "Okay. Well, here's 10 things. Let me just pick one off this list."
DR FRIEDMAN: Yes. That make sense. I know with my note pad, I would have a problem with it if I didn't complete it, it would get forgotten about. So, what I actually did was have these small, little sticky notes and I would keep it next to something that I needed to do and when I completed it, I would pull it off and throw it away. So, I knew in my big pad if I went back to page 1 or 2 and there was a sticky note, that's something I forgot.
PAULA: Right. Right. Oh, that's a good system.
DR FRIEDMAN: Yes. That was a system I went to before the smartphone. I’m thinking about going back. I don't get stuff done on the smartphone. It's just there's so much in there. I mean, it's everything. It's internet. It's searching. It's email. It's scheduling. It's like, you know, I miss my little lists.
PAULA: Yes. Too many distractions on the phone. I see that, too. I see an alert and I'll think, "Oh. Okay. I need to look at that." Then, you get distracted because then there was a Facebook message that you wanted to look at and emails came in at the same time. I put the phone down and I'm like, "Wait a minute. I didn't even do what I was supposed to be doing." So, discipline is really tough, but sometimes I'll even repeat in my mind to like stop myself or say out loud what I'm in the middle of doing. Then, that way, it's sort of like you're giving yourself one more step to actually do it by saying it out loud.
DR FRIEDMAN: That make sense. You mentioned there's an app, I guess, for a list of books that people should buy and I guess they need to write down Listful Thinking, correct?
PAULA: That's right. Yes. Listful Thinking should be on the book list for sure.
DR FRIEDMAN: That's a great name. I'll tell you, I interview a lot of authors and some of the names, I'm like, "Yeah. They're okay." That's really a great title for your book.
PAULA: Thank you. Yes.
DR FRIEDMAN: Did you roll around quite a few names before you go to that on a list? Did you have like a list of 20 and you had to pick the one for the Listful Thinking?
PAULA: You know, it's funny. I always really loved that title and I started this blog four years ago, ListProducer.com. You know, I went with that one because I'm a TV producer and I produce lists and I thought it was kind of cute. But, I always, in the back of my head really loved Listful Thinking. So, when this book became a thing, I was like, it's got to be called that. It's perfect.
DR FRIEDMAN: Yes. It's easy to remember, too. A lot of these great books, people, in two minutes, they go on Amazon and they're like, "I forgot the name of that book." So, yours is very catchy as well. So, ListProducer.com and do you still do the blogs and they still follow you?
PAULA: Oh, yes. Yes. The blog is new three times a week. I update that and, yes. I'm just doing a lot of stuff for the book which is really fun and getting to talk to people and seeing their lists and seeing different ways that people make lists and how they best serve them. That's the thing. There are so many different ways to do it. There's no right or wrong way as far as you like to hand write them or if you like to do it with an app. Whatever really best serves you is the way to go.
DR FRIEDMAN: Yes. You bring up a good point. It works different for every single person. Some people are at the computer and they don't even deal with smartphones. They need something on the computer. Some people carry a little notepad and they need their list there. So, great information. This is, like I said, a topic that we haven't covered. It's just phenomenal. I appreciate you being on the show.
To get your copy of Listful Thinking or more information about how lists can keep you productive, successful and less stressed, go to ListProducer.com. Follow Paula on Twitter @ListProducer. Keep up with our daily health tweets @DrDavidFriedman.
More to come after this short break. Stay well and stay tuned.