The to-do list meets its match

to-do listIt’s highly likely that you have a to-do list. Or at least, that you use one some of the time. Whether it’s a full-blown online GTD affair with deadlines and categories or a scribbled aide-memoire on the back of an envelope, the to-do list is an essential of the modern world.

Getting everything out of your head and onto paper or a screen is a great way to avoid overwhelm. It enables you to step back from your workload and plan a strategy for getting it done, as well as helping you free yourself from the mental ‘nudging’ your brain employs to stop you from forgetting things (often, unhelpfully, at 3am). And the offline version provides enormous satisfaction in the form of being able to strike things dramatically off your list when you have completed them.

Yet the to-do list can also be an oppressive taskmaster; its unticked items weigh heavy as we reach the end of the day and have to carry them over to tomorrow’s list. The cathartic and joyful scribbling out of the many things we have accomplished that day is spoiled by the silent accusations of the tasks that got away.

Step in the ‘got-done’ list. Stop beating yourself up with that unfinished to-do list and look at it carefully. Notice all those things you got done today and give yourself some credit for it. Whilst you’re there, note down all the other things you got done today that didn’t even make it onto the list: managing a tricky phone call; cheering up a friend with a timely hug; having that breakthrough business idea whilst you were in the shower… Create a got-done list every day and remind yourself of what a brilliant, productive person you really are. Celebrate all your wins. Then you can face that to-do with a confident smile.

What did you get done today? Shout it from the rooftops! And if you’d like to feel even better about yourself, give me a call and let’s see how we can work together to make your life really sparkle.

PS Want to see my biggest ever ‘got-done’ list? It’s here.



The to-do list meets its match — 2 Comments

  1. I applaud the idea of using a Got-Done list to put the emphasis on achievement rather than failure! Looking at what you’ve done at the end of the day – and comparing it to what you thought you needed to do – is a great way of using good old 20:20 hindsight to determine the whether the To-Do list you started out with really represented your priorities in the first place.

    Sometimes, of course, you’ll discover what we all do from time to time: once again, you did the things you like to do, and avoided the things you don’t. A way to make sure those tasks-that-got-away don’t continue to evade you is to break them down. Anything that takes longer than 2 hours to achieve can be broken down into its finite, component parts; it’s almost certainly the case that 15 minutes here and 20 there can help you push through the big stuff.

    • Good advice, Valerie. It reminds me of the ‘Pomodoro Technique’, which is just a fancy name for setting a timer for 20 minutes and changing tasks each time it goes off. This way, you can work on 2 or 3 big tasks at once without the overwhelm that normally accompanies them.

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