Managing our expectations with the power of lists

11 September 2023

Our expectations can act as a stress generator. In this article, part of our series on wellbeing within the workplace, mental health specialist Patrick Melville suggests how we can use lists as a means to understand, manage and adapt our expectations.

Expectations are your strong hopes or beliefs that something will happen or that you will get something that you want.” Collins English Dictionary.

Do you think that expectations influence your mental health? The Parameters research carried out earlier this year would suggest that a paraplanner’s wellbeing can often be impacted by expectations. The word expectations was named as a driver of stress 15 times in the Professional Paraplanner/MMS Mental Health questionnaire.

Your mind’s expectations are built on past experiences and knowledge to predict a future outcome. Whilst it is important to acknowledge the past, elements that are out of your control such as the changes happening in your environment can act as stress drivers. When your mind is not in control it makes predictions, and the longer the wait the greater the impact. One respondent explained a common stress driver as “waiting for information from providers”.

It is important to understand how you manage and adapt to your expectations.

Consider this example: During MMS webinars and live events, delegates are often asked to fold their arms. They are then are instructed to immediately fold them the ‘other way’. A vast range of reactions ensue. Some people panic and freeze, others get it right the first time – and various other behaviours in the middle can be observed! Different minds react in different ways in situations without expectation or practice.

One way of managing multiple priorities is by using that simple but effective tool: list making. Lists are an excellent way of managing expectations. They are visual so can help to reduce mental clutter and introduce calm over a busy mind. They help you to rationalise, prioritise and focus on your workload.

Our paraplanner research highlights the significant power of lists with no less than 50 mentions of the word, including: “do a list in priority order” and “write lists down to organise my workload”. Try devoting a specific time in the day and during the week to write and review a list. Setting aside a few minutes will help you to destress and reframe your thinking because this action alone will help you to feel more in control. Everyone has their own way to write their lists and it is important that you find a method that suits you in your work day.

Lists do not have to centre around work. Our daily lives are full of ‘to do lists’, many of which can have a beneficial impact on our work focus. The Metro suggests five lists which can encourage a wider perspective and a rational approach to your day: 1) ‘To do’, 2) ‘Gratitude’, 3) ‘Today’s Achievements’, 4) ‘Worry’ and 5) ‘Hope and Dreams’.

Here are some tips for writing lists:
 always put ‘to do’ at the top of your list and cross it off when you have done it – ticking this off can bring immense satisfaction!
 review and rewrite your list frequently to give it a real status.
 make an active effort to praise yourself for taking the time to concentrate on this important task. Perhaps doing this over a coffee and when done, go for a short walk and stretch.

OK, time to come clean! I may have stretched the truth when referring to 50 mentions of the word ‘list’. Some of these 50 mentions were part of longer words, but they are nonetheless relevant to managing expectations.
 List-ening. Finding someone to listen to your list is a way to rationalise your worklist and get emotional or practical support. “A boss who listens is great” – said one respondent.
 Play-list. Another survey response explained that they “put a good playlist on….to get in the zone.” Listening to music, can focus the mind, diverting it from the wait and potential un-real expectations.
 Rea-list-ic. Several people responded, one saying: “I try to be as realistic with timescales as possible”. As the Collins English Dictionary explains that being realistic is “when you recognise and accept its true nature and try to deal with it.”

Using lists is a proactive and positive way to manage your expectations. Please free to share the benefits of lists in your mental health.

You can find more articles from Patrick on the Professional Paraplanner website

Find out more about Patrick at these locations:
[email protected]
Twitter: @melvsolutions

Professional Paraplanner