How A To-Do-List Can Help You Off To Sleep

How A To-Do-List Can Help You Off To Sleep

You can’t carry things while you’re asleep. That may seem a silly statement to make as it seems so obvious. So writing a To-Do list can take those items into tomorrow and give your mind a clear space to sleep.

You want a rest, a real rest. One where you can put down all the items churning in your brain.

You want to get away and leave yesterday and all its troubles behind.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.”  Matthew 11:29

We so easily carry the confusion of yesterday into the nighttime of our sleep and wonder why we can’t settle.

Confused, so defused

If you want to depress
someone then confuse them.
Todd Herman

If you have too much going on in the brain and there is a confusion. Having too many balls in the air you may well lose hope and begin the spiral downward.

The quote could equally be written with anxiety, the evil twin sister of depression.

If you want to make someone anxious, then confuse them.  

Notebooks from @mikesoderstrom (Instagram)

Clarity puts our mind to rest.

The  clarity of a To-do list

Something that has helped me to declutter the confusion is a simple to-do list.

I have a notebook beside me all the time. Anything that comes to my mind, an idea, a thought, I write it down. Therefore I don’t have to keep trying to remember it. I then have space in my brain that is freed up to think about other things.

I have tried various ways of keeping a to-do list but I have settled on good old paper and pen.

Write by hand

I prefer to write my to-do list by hand for some good reasons.

  1. It gives my brain a tangible ink on paper sensation of having achieved something. There is a muscle memory created every time I create an item and every time I cross it out. I like crossing things off, and doing it with ink is so much more fun.
  2. I will keep the writing short and to the point, if I have to write it by hand.
  3. I can add items quicker than with digital
  4. I can review items quicker
  5. I can get a greater sense of achievement when I look over the list at the end of the day or week and see all the crossed out items.

How a To-do list helps me to sleep

Research has discovered that writing a to-do list where outstanding tasks are listed helps you to fall asleep more quickly.

Can’t sleep? Time to write your to-do list, study says

By writing my list in the evening, it helps me to close out the day. Items crossed off gives me a sense that I am making progress.

By writing out the list, I am giving my brain the cues that this is what we will be doing tomorrow. ‘Hey brain, tomorrow we are writing a blog post about sleep.’

If you form this into a daily habit, it will signal to your body that it is in the shutdown process of the day. Sleep time rituals are crucial to getting good sleep.

While we sleep, great and marvelous things, far beyond our capacities to invent or engineer, are in process – the moon making seasons, the lion roaring for its prey, the earthworms aerating the earth, the stars turning in their courses, the proteins repairing our muscles, our dreaming brains restoring a deeper sanity beneath the gossip and scheming of our waking hours. Eugene Peterson

Write a To-do list with God

As I write my list, I write it with God. I invite Spirit (Holy) to nudge me and prompt me to do various items that I may have overlooked.

I am also inviting God to begin working on these items for me while I sleep. If God is at work, then I don’t need to be.  I awake to find that God has gone before me and prepared the day for me to step into.

I also use this time as a time of reflection.

  • What am I thankful for today?
  • Where did I sense God at work during the day?
  • What worries or fears do I have that I need to offload and place in Gods hands for the night?


Writing a to-do list in the evening helps you to offload much of what you are carrying into your sleep.

Further Reading

Quotes to consider

  • What’s interesting with writing is that when I write stuff down, it’s removed from my head. Joanna Penn
  • Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them. David Allen
  • Everything you’ve told yourself you ought to do, your mind thinks you should do right now. Frankly, as soon add you have two things to do stored in your RAM, you’ve generated personal failure, because you can’t do two things at the same time. This produces an all-pervasive stress factor whose source can’t be pin-pointed. David Allen

Questions to answer 

  1. Writing with a pen or using digital. What works best for you?
  2. When do you write your to-do list?
  3. Imagine yourself waking to find God has already gone ahead of you preparing your day. What feelings does create in you?

Barry Pearman

Image:Matt Ragland


Barry Pearman

Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.

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