When Building a List is Self-Care

If our community's Compell'd lists are any indication, so many of you found new and innovative ways to keep exploring, learning, and growing during 2020... and that deserves to be celebrated.

A list is such a simple concept, so glaringly obvious, that we don’t often appreciate it for the miraculous little wonder that it is. Sure, it’s not much more than just a title plus a group of things, but alas, within that group is where the magic lies. A list is an artifact, an expression of need or desire, something that you took care to create because it matters. And best of all, it often takes just a few seconds to create. What’s more is that list-making is no longer an organizer, type-A sport. Ever since we ventured into the era of the content jungle, we have all become list-makers: curators of the content we want to remember, and curators of recommendations that allow us to relive and share our most treasured experiences.

The positive psychological benefits of creating a list are well-documented and well-known. Whether it’s about capturing an uncompleted task to relieve “mental tension” a la David Allen’s Getting Things Done philosophy, relieving stress and bringing order to chaos, or participating in a longstanding journalistic end-of-the-year tradition to bring some levity to a chaotic year, building a list is a no-brainer for an instant boost. From the excitement we feel in capturing and anticipating our “want-to-do’s,” to the ability to relive and memorialize experiences by curating a list of our favorites, list-making is one of the easiest forms of self-care there is. 

The best part is, list creation is no longer just a one-time, sit-down event. It very well can be (like the year-end tradition noted above), but it can also be ongoing; a “running list.” Given that our screens are our portals to the rest of the world these days, more than any of us could have ever imagined, there’s so much to see, learn, experience, try even from behind a 2D display. The crazy part is, there’s always a URL, a screenshot, or an open browser tab to pair with the experience :) Saving what’s noteworthy to us from the swirl of content allows us to relieve our minds of having to remember where we discovered these gems (was it that email newsletter? That Instagram story? In that group text?), and allows us to find precisely what we want when we need it.

Further, we know from our research that people prefer lists that have brains and beauty. Aesthetics have never been more important; we have become visual creatures. Black and white words on a page just don’t cut it anymore: not in the content we consume, the social media accounts we follow, and certainly not in the lists we’re making. And of course, what’s the point of saving something to a list to only forget about it? Our research also illuminates the frustration and stress associated with forgetting or losing or searching for something we saved. We need and demand smarter lists--lists that help us remember and experience what we saved at the right moment.

You might at first think that you really didn’t have any new experiences to celebrate and reminisce on this year, and we don’t blame you. It’s easy to think about all the places we didn’t get to visit, the plans we canceled, and many things we hoped to experience in 2020 that we couldn’t. But what about all the things we did experience? The unexpected, the new, the strange and exciting in their own way. There were tens of thousands of new finds saved in Compell’d over this period and if this is any indication, our community found innovative ways to keep seeking new experiences in this new normal. The fancy souffle that demanded five hours of your day. The books we wanted to read that we finally did. The movies and TV shows that we couldn’t get enough of. The local restaurants we ordered in from over and over again. The masks that make us feel stylish and safe. The chef that launched a new business that delivered the most delectable treats to our door. The podcast that changed the way we think. The skin care that went head to head with the best facial, and the at-home workouts that made us feel really good, even in our living rooms. 

This year, with all of its difficulty, offered something once in a generation. It taught us about ourselves--what we could endure and how we could adapt. It reminded us that we live for human connection and will find it in new, creative ways when the old ways are taken from us. Through the darkness, there was beauty in the chaos of it all. As this year comes to a close, we realize how much we grew in spite of the limitations imposed. The experiences that have the power to change us come in all forms, and this year proved that. 

So, why not take a pause and consider building your own “Best of the Year” list in Compell’d. It’s an exercise usually reserved for journalists and bloggers, but we say why not us, too? Especially after this whirlwind of a year. We can’t wait to see what you come up with.

PS - If you’d like some listspiration, check out Jessica Hwang’s Cheers to 2020! list.

December 17, 2020

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