Sequence Wiz electronic health records system for yoga therapists

How task lists help with brain budgeting

Your brain uses up a lot of energy; it accounts for about 20% of the body’s energy consumption while representing only 2 percent of its weight. Most of that energy goes toward the same spinning thoughts. Scientists estimate that an average person has about 60,000 thoughts per day, and about 90% of those thoughts are repetitive. This means that about 90% of our mental activity involves spinning in circles and revisiting the same stuff over and over again. The yogis call it chitta vrtti or “the vortex of the mind.”

Many of those thoughts concern the tasks that you need to accomplish within a day. If you try to keep every task in your head, you will continue to return to it mentally again and again, reminding yourself about it and fretting about fitting it in. Instead of using your mental energy on something useful and productive, you end up spending it on trying to mentally juggle your to-do list.

To-Do lists

Removing your task list from your head and placing it on paper changes the dynamic and frees up mental space for other, more creative tasks. Making a written task list also: 

  1. Gives you a sense of perspective and a bird-eye view of what needs to get done
  2. Encourages you to focus on one thing at a time
  3. Relives anxiety about “forgetting something”
  4. Helps you manage your time according to the length and complexity of the list
  5. Gives you a sense of accomplishment once you check the tasks off the list
  6. Helps you build better habits of structuring your time 
  7. Ensures that you don’t skip the tasks that are not at the top of your mind
  8. Helps you stay efficient and organized.

Energy Budgeting

In her book How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, Professor of Psychology Lisa Feldman Barret, PhD. introduces the concept of “body budget” as a main determining factor in how we feel. She argues that the way you feel at any given moment is not really a reflection of your external reality but a reflection of your internal physiological balance. Your brain is always at work trying to balance your internal energetic checks and balances, making sure that if there is a big expenditure of some sort, it is followed by a large deposit to replenish the resources. Everything you do in your daily life acts as a deposit toward the body budget or as a withdrawal. The brain is sensitive about the budget going both too low and too high, while negative balances and surpluses usually lead to disease.


Every morning when you wake up, your brain (unbeknownst to you) decides how much resources it needs to allocate for this day – it budgets your resources. To predict how much energy you will need, it weaves together your prior experience, expectations of what the day holds, and information about your internal and external environment. Based on all that, the brain allocates a certain amount of resources that you then use in the course of your day.

Here is an interesting thing – if your brain guessed wrong and you end up using a lot more resources or not using enough, you have an emotional reaction. “Your affective feelings of pleasure and displeasure, and calmness and agitation, are simple summaries of your budgetary state.” So your response to how your day is going has less to do with what happened or didn’t happen during your day, and a lot to do with whether or not your brain has misjudged how much energy you would need for it.

This is another reason why it helps to have a clear picture of what you need to accomplish on any given day. Formulating your plan for the day early on allows your brain to budget an appropriate amount of energetic resources for everything you need to accomplish. Then, it will be more likely to guess correctly, and, as a result, you will have a more positive experience throughout the day. If you don’t have clarity about your do-to list from the beginning and then end up piling up more hefty tasks, your body budgeting will be way off, which will likely lead to a frustrating experience and a sense of exhaustion at the end of the day.

Visual aids

Your to-do list doesn’t need to be tedious or boring. You can make it colorful and creative to reflect your personality and mood. You can use a pretty notebook, colorful post-its, rainbow pens, attractive images on your vision board, or any other visual aids that keep it fun and interesting. 

Another type of visual aid can be a deck of Inspire Yourself Every Day flashcards for yoga teachers and yoga therapists. These colorful cards will bring a bit of inspiration to your daily routine. You can select the appropriate cards daily and lay them out on your desk to remind yourself of what’s on your agenda. Or, you can pick one card randomly from each of the four sections to make sure that every day, you do something to sharpen your teaching skills, get organized, get inspired, and spread the message about your services. You can pin selected cards to your vision board. You can also add your own cards to the deck to include other tasks that are important to YOU.