Why a done list is more important than to-do lists and how to create one

done list
Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash

We live in a society that values productivity more than anything else. Maybe you’ve become mired in to-do lists and derive your value from checking off items. But have you tried a done list?

A done list reminds you of what you’ve achieved rather than what you have yet to do. Sometimes we forget to give ourselves a pat on the back for all the little things we do.

We wait until we reach the monumental goal before celebrating. And, even then, we shrug and move on to the next big thing.

If you grew up without hearing praise or encouragement, celebrating small wins won’t come naturally. You have trouble believing anything you’ve done is good enough.

If you grew up without hearing praise or encouragement, celebrating small wins won't come naturally. Click To Tweet

You likely struggle to relax and unwind. That’s because your parents never gave you the pat on the back that indicated a job well done. As a result, your off switch which helps you power down is broken.

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Part of the self-parenting process is giving ourselves the recognition we missed growing up. This is where a done list comes in. Not to replace the to-do list, but enhance it.

Why the done list is so important

1. It improves your mood.

You may think crossing items off your to-do list makes you happy. And, there is a certain satisfaction to getting things done.

But when you don’t celebrate those wins, life becomes a mountain climbing expedition with no reprieve.

When you acknowledge small accomplishments, you feel better about yourself. Instead of falling behind, you see how far you’ve come.

2. It increases confidence.

When you set goals, you’ll inevitably reach the end of a month without achieving all of them. And, like the missing ceiling tile, we focus on the one or two things left undone.

But when you look back at your goals and write down the ones you did accomplish, it’s uplifting. It makes you feel good about yourself. Because many of those goals seemed difficult to attain at the time you set them.

3. It helps you relax

A done list is different than a to-do list with checkmarks. If you take stock at the end of a day or week, you’ll see how many things you had to do that were not on your list.

You’ll go easier on yourself when you realize distractions and dealing with emergencies are part of life. You may find there are too many items on your to-do list. Reducing the number to a manageable amount will bring peace and sanity.

4. It brings clarity

A done list can help you see what you enjoy and what you’re good at. If the same things aren’t getting done week after week, that could mean you’re avoiding them.

The things on your done list are often things that come easily because that’s where your talents lie. You might realize, as I did, that you’re better off outsourcing those undone tasks.

How to create a done list

As you go through your day, make a list of all the things you did, whether or not they were on your to-do list. Give yourself credit for what you completed and accomplished.

Often we treat tasks outside our official to-do list as if they don’t count. But the fires we put out daily are not mere distractions from our real lives. They are life itself.

Acknowledge yourself for taking care of them and never again say, “I got nothing done today”.

Acknowledge yourself for tasks outside your to-do list and never again say, "I got nothing done today". Click To Tweet

Do you set weekly or monthly goals? At the end of that period, pay attention to the ones you achieved instead of dwelling on those you didn’t.

Celebrate your accomplishments and notice whether they represent tasks you enjoy and which use your skills and talents. Consider enlisting help for the jobs you keep putting off.

That means asking for help or paying someone to complete the task professionally. Now, you can add stretching outside your comfort zone to your done list, and celebrate that, too.

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