Why You Need An “Every Damn Day” List + How To Create One

Looking for productivity tips or trying to stay positive? You might need an Every Damn Day List! Click through and see how this super simple tool can help you stay on track towards your goals, not matter what else is going on with your life!

It’s a perfect world and I awake to songbirds, cooing me into consciousness. I eat a surprisingly delicious, kale-filled breakfast and then walk the dog while simultaneously meditating.

I settle into a lovely day of writing, phone calls, and catching up with friends. I am wearing a cute outfit, my hair looks amazing, and my home is miraculously spotless. I AM A PARAGON OF POSITIVITY AND PRODUCTIVITY!!!

But, sadly, this isn’t a perfect world.  

On any given day, it’s entirely possible that I will sleep late, work myself into a headache, avoid phone calls, and/or eat popcorn for every meal.

Life happens! Deadlines change, priorities shift, and sometimes I just don’t want to put on real pants, okay?

So how do we keep our lives from derailing when things get busy? How do we keep making tiny, incremental steps towards the life we want when we’re nearly too frazzled to function?

We make and use an Every Damn Day List.

An Every Damn Day List is a list of small, suuuuuper doable things we do every blessed day – things that will make our lives just slighty better and easier. These are tiny things we can do regardless of deadlines, laundry piles, or sick partners.

The items on our lists are things that give us a tiny boost, a little spark of health or happiness regardless of how the rest of the day goes. They’re small effort, big(ish) impact things that help us feel like Proper Functioning Adults rather than Human Tornados Fueled By Pizza Rolls And Coffee.

Why you need an Every Damn Day List

One of the tools I will never shut up about is the Bookmark Habit. (If you’ve taken my free workshop 5 Reasons Your Good Habits Don’t Stick, you know what I’m talking about!) 

Bookmark Habits – and to a lesser extent this Every Damn Day List – keep us from throwing in the towel in every blessed area of our lives. They dramatically reduce the number of days that we toss up our hands, declare the entire day a write off, and settle into a funk of bad decisions.

If you have an Every Damn Day List, no day will ever be a complete write off. No matter what professional, social, financial, or dietary decisions you make, if you follow your Every Damn Day List, there will be at least a few choices that point you in the right direction.

Stayed in your sweats all day, binge watching Queer Eye, and eating pudding cups? At least you walked the dog and made your bed!

Flicked someone off in traffic, ignored your mom’s text, and missed the due date on your library book? At least you complimented your barista’s shirt and ate an apple!

In case you’re wondering, here’s my Every Damn Day List

  1. Drink three glasses of water
  2. Get outside for at least 10 minutes (regardless of the weather)
  3. Read something that’s not on a screen for at least 20 minutes
  4. Say something nice to someone
  5. Eat at least one fruit or vegetable
  6. Make the bed

That’s it! That’s all! None of this is ground-breaking or even particularly hard. If I wanted to, I could bang all this out in an hour.

I could eat, think, and do rubbishy nonsense all day but if I spent the hour before bed doing these things, I’d still end the day on a (slightly) up-note.

How to create your own Every Damn Day List

Of course (of course!) everyone’s Every Damn Day List will be different. I need to be reminded to drink water, but maybe you’re an ace hydrator! ‘Reply to 3 emails’ would never, ever need to be on my list, but maybe it should be on yours?

These four questions will help you create your own Every Damn Day List.

What’s the smallest possible action that will make your space feel nicer?

Examples:

  • Spend five minutes cleaning the kitchen
  • Make the bed
  • Run the Roomba (no, I will never stop proselytizing about Roombas!!!)
  • Swoosh a lintroller over your upholstered furniture
  • Open the window for five minutes to air out your space

What’s the smallest possible action that will make you feel healthier?

Examples:

  • Go outside for 20 minutes
  • Drink two glasses of water
  • Eat at least one fruit or vegetable
  • Stretch for five minutes before you go to bed
  • Drink a cup of green tea
  • Put your legs up the wall

What’s the smallest possible action that will make you feel better emotionally?

Examples:

  • Say something nice to someone
  • Look at old photos on Facebook
  • Send a funny text to a friend or family member
  • Tag someone in a funny meme
  • Close your eyes and take five deep breaths
  • Listen to a song you loved in high school

What’s the smallest possible action that will make you feel on top of your life?

Examples:

  • Wear perfume or cologne
  • Spend five minutes replying or deleting old emails
  • Check your bank account balance
  • Lay out your outfit for tomorrow
  • Clean off your desk

How to get the most out of your Every Damn Day List

Put it somewhere you’ll see it every day

Next to your desk! The lock screen on your phone! The screensaver on your computer! It doesn’t matter where it goes, it just matters that you’ll see it every damn day.

Don’t put more than five or six items on it and make them small!

Fellow Type-As, I see you over there, making a 22-point list in which every item takes 2o minutes. Stop. This should be a super short list, populated with hilariously doable things. If any given item takes more than 15 minutes – off the list it goes! If you can’t imagine yourself doing this thing after a long hard day, it shouldn’t be on the list.

Every item that goes on your list should be tiny; almost laughably easy! We are what we do every day and tiny, daily actions add up to a life. Click To Tweet
Why not make sure those tiny daily actions are the right ones?

I want to hear from you! Do you have any Every Damn Day List? If you do – what’s on it? Tell us in the comments so we can be inspired by your ideas and try them for ourselves!

P.S. Making an Every Damn Day List is a habit you can develop just like any other habit. If you struggle to make habits stick, this will help!

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

46 Comments

Maggie

Currently I have such a list — and it’s fourteen items long! I’ve done this to myself so many times, letting myself believe that I must be A Woman of Accomplishment, otherwise I’m throwing away my valuable hours. (They should be more valuable than ever now that I’m serious old.)
All of those fourteen items seem like quite little things, but the list as a whole is daunting. The predictable result is that I do two or three and then “have a bit of a rest.” Meaning, of course, the rest of the day.

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Sarah Von Bargen

Girl, dial that ish back! I’m going to add an addendum that an EDL shouldn’t be longer than 5-6 items!

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marielle hare

thanks Sarah, I’ve been on your email list for quite some time and always enjoy your insight and humor. I do have a list. It’s a fairly recent development and has made a real difference in my unstructured life. In the morning, I do at least 3 of these. Meditation, make the bed, (always, but I still get points), a short burst of isometric exercise, gratitude practice, read an invocation of my superpowers I wrote for myself, do a particular visualization, eat an enlivening breakfast, make a list of one challenging thing to fit into my day .. and .. do it.

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Liz

Can I tell you that I love your “invocation of my superpowers”… I’ve never heard that before and so I’m off to Google up some ideas on how to craft my own!

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Kim

I love the “invocation of my superpowers”!
I need some superpowers to invoke.
Can I start with discerning “URGENT” from “Important” matters and recognizing when I need to say “no” before I’m broke, burnt out, or turning into a cranky old lady?

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Dawn

This is great! I recently began the habit of always making my bed in the morning. Not a perfect hospital corners job, but straightened out enough that it looks OK and I can get in at night without much fuss. No matter how much of a disaster my day is, at least I feel like I’m not a complete failure, because at least the bed is made. I am going to expand it into a whole Every Damn Day list. Thanks!

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Helena

I also recently started making my bed! It is so nice to come home to, even if the rest of my house is a disaster.

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Helena

I have a pretty long daily to-do list, which helps me stay on track during my routines.

But I think my non-negotiables are to take my meds, make my bed, wear sunscreen, brush my teeth, and eat a fruit/vegetable. Which all sounds like a normal part of being human, but it is amazing how grad school can lower your expectations. 😂

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Susie M.

I don’t have an explicit list, BUT making my bed is definitely on it, plus stretching even for five minutes, in bed or on the yoga mat. Oh and green tea, oh my green tea…

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Heather

OMG I could not love this more! It arrived in my Inbox at the perfect time.

I’m actually in the process of making my #everydamnday list! I have a ton of things on it, but I’m not going to beat myself up if it doesn’t all get done. I’m about to colour-code mine into different categories 🙂

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Mickey

Oh, I have that list but I didn’t have a name for it.

I swear it took me until my 30s to realize how important small doable tasks that move you forward are. It’s like a secret of adulthood that nobody tells you about, and you have to do the hard work and figure it our yourself.

On my list currently:
1. Have a smoothie. Takes 3 minutes to make and helps me hit my fruit quota for the day.
2. Air out the bedroom in the morning and right before we go to sleep.
3. Do some yoga. Sometimes, an entire YouTube video. Other times, a 5-minute sequence is all I can handle. And that’s fine.
4. Go for a walk. Non-negotiable. I love going for walks, and I can’t remember when the last day I didn’t go outside was. It’s more like a treat for me than a “must do.”
5. Write down my daily expenses on a whiteboard as soon as I enter the house. It gets transferred to an expense sheet every week or two.

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Cindy McDonough

I could not love this more! As an artist/Mom my biggest struggle is to get in a little drawing everyday, however small. My Every Damn Day list will include a 15 minute drawing with my morning coffee. Boom. If I can do that I will start my day off on top of the world. Bed-making, water-drinking, and maybe even showering might even make the list….

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Ffion Evans

YES! I don’t call it that, but I do have a list like this!

1) Drink a big glass of water in the morning
2) Have a salad with my breakfast eggs
3) Take supplements
4) Headspace App Meditation
5) Read 20 minutes of non-fiction
6) Get outside for 20 minutes, whether it’s a really short morning jog or a walk in the afternoon

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Stephanie Moulton

My Every Damn Day list for the past eleven years:

1. Walk two miles
2. Physical therapy exercises for my back and knees
3. Shower
4. Ice my back
5. Drink at least five glasses of water

Bonus: when my brain tells me I’m not disciplined, I remind it that I walk and do my PT every damn day no matter what’s happening or how I feel, which included doing those two things during a bout of pneumonia four years ago (shortened, but still done).

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Allyson

For the past several months I’ve been slowly building/revising lists like this for each of what I call my “critical periods”. My three critical periods are: 1) first thing when I wake up 2) when I get back to my house at the end of the day and 3) before I go to sleep. None of the periods is dependent on happening at a specific hour that way if my day goes off the rails for whatever reason, I have three chances a day to get it back on track.

My list for each of the periods includes things that are very similar to the ones mentioned here (e.g., my morning list includes putting on sunscreen, eating breakfast at a table, and drinking a cup of tea). Some of the items on the lists get skipped occasionally, and I don’t worry too much about that, but some are my informal non-negotiables (I’m looking at you, cup of tea in the morning).

In the next few months I’m going to make the transition to being self-employed, and I’m foreseeing trouble with that “when I get home” list since getting home will no longer be a reliable trigger when I’m working at home all day. Accepting suggestions for new triggers!

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Stephanie

I love this idea!!!

And I wonder if there is a task you could put at the end of every day for yourself to mark that transition?

Sending major kudos on the transition (I’m in that same place, so, am cheering you on!)

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Allyson

Thank you! And all the best thoughts for you and your transition as well 🙂

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Liz

I love the different lists to “transition” to different times of the day. I think I’m going to try that myself!

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Amanda Young

“Fellow Type-As, I see you over there, making a 22-point list in which every item takes 2o minutes. Stop”… Oh… haha you caught me! Making these items “laughably easy” is way more difficult than I expected!

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Dawn

Bloody brilliant! I have my ‘My Perfect Morning Routine’ posted on my bedroom wall. However, I don’t think feed the cat and have a cup of tea need to be on it lol! In common with most people here….making the bed is on the list – and I’ve got that one nailed! Still, the list needs a bit of tweaking and I love your suggestions!

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Simone

I read about your “old” Every Damn Day List back in, ehm, 2014 (?) and used it as my desktop background for a while. Nowadays my list includes going outside (sometimes when I am sick it’s just for a few breaths while already wearing my PJs, and a good excuse to empty the trash), do a tiny bit of yoga (I call it “Minimalyoga”), floss, and knit.
I started with just one and waited for the habit to stick before adding a new one, which proofed to be way more effective than starting (and failing) with a whole bunch right away.

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Madelyn

I love your list Simone – I also try to get outside, even if it’s just for a few breaths, and do a tiny bit of Yoga every day! I think you’re so right about adding one habit at a time rather than overwhelming yourself with too many at once!

Random question – is English not your native language? You write almost perfectly but you said “already wearing my PJs” where I would have said “still wearing my PJs”, and it made me wonder! Also “proofed” should be “proved”. Just wanted to let you know in case you’re learning English and weren’t certain of the right words! 🙂

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Simone

Thank you 🙂 No, English is not my native language. But with wearing PJs it could go either way: still wearing them because I never got dressed that day, or already wearing them because it is 10 pm and I almost went to bed without going outside.

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Caryn

Mine:
-Drink 6 glasses of water
-Take my vitamins
-Move my body. 5 minutes is great!
-Eat food that makes me feel better

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James Thomas

The best thing I took from military life was how important creating daily habits were. No matter how little you got done, at least your bed was made. I rarely make my bed now but this article reminded me how important this one thing can be. Thanks!

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Shannon

My list is pretty simple…

Clean Litterboxes
10 minute clean
Brush teeth x2
Drink 3 glasses of water
Read for 20 minutes
Make the bed
Self care something

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Barbara

make the bed
only one coffee
take a walk or at least sit in the sun for a bit
eat an apple or a salad
empty the sink before bed
write 3 things that went well today

I started with just the first and the last ones, then gradually over about 2 months, added the others. I’m not sure if I’m going to change the ones that are truly habits to something else that I’d like to develop in my life. For example, I don’t really need to remind myself to make the bed anymore, so maybe replace it with “text my kids good morning” or “write down what I spent today.”

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Sharon O.

For almost 1.5 years now, my Every Damn Day List has been:
1. Dedicate a specific 20+ minutes to reading
2. Walk for at least 2 km or 10 minutes
3. Drink at least 6 glasses of water
4. Leave my house clean and orderly (when I leave)
5. Be intentionally nice/kind to people

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Summer morning routine – the luxury teacher

[…] And even if I do end up spending all day lounging around spending way too much time on social media, a good morning routine would still make me feel like I accomplished something for the day. If you want additional tips and notes on this, Sarah Von of Yes and Yes Blog wrote a super inspiring post about her every damn day list here. […]

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Side Notes: A Monthly Wrap Up by yours truly – All The Trinkets

[…] Let me just say, Sarah is one of my blogging superheroes. I LOVE her blog. Her writing inspires me, and she is hilarious! She is practical but there is certainly an undeniable magic in the way she sees the world. The Every Damn Day List will help anyone who struggles in not feeling productive, especially in slump days. Check out her post on why you need one and how to make it! […]

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chelsea

i love this idea. thank you for sharing. i work from home and have struggled to keep up somedays. im a mom, srudent, wife, among a dozen other hats and often forget to take care of myself. my goal recently has been to be more intentional about my self care. my list includes:
1. eat breakfast (at home)
2. brush teeth
3. wash face
4. take vitamins/ medication
5. drink 3 bottles of water
6. read something off screen or journal 15 minutes each night
7. get outdoors for 10 minutes

Reply

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