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Overwhelmed by to-do lists? Keep a "done" list

One tool that helps me keep a healthier perspective on my tasks and responsibilities is called "the done list" (or, if you prefer something more casual, the "Ta-Da list").



Productivity is a hot topic that I enjoy reading and learning new things about. There are endless amounts of material you can find on the subject. It's understandable; many of us are swamped with different responsibilities and tasks, juggling home life, work, family responsibilities, and more. The chase never ends, and there are always more things to do than time to do them. So how can we ensure we aren't overwhelmed by endless to-do lists?

The purpose of "the done list" is to give us momentum, encourage us, and utilize the power of small wins. It helps us see how much we get done during the day, especially on days where we don't get much done from our to-do list and might feel we haven't progressed much - seeing it all written down helps you see that although some tasks weren't done, you did move forward and achieved a lot.



Motivated by imposter syndrome

I started keeping this list a few months ago when I felt that my task list for the day was staying the same, and I felt my imposter Syndrome acting up. I thought I hadn't achieved anything during the day on the one hand, but on the other hand - the day did end, and I knew I did some things, but I needed to remember what. I wanted to see what I spent my time on and prove that I have done something productive during the day. It worked.

Unlike other methods, I started doing this on my own and only then decided to see if other people use it.

Upon a Google search, I found multiple articles and even a whole e-book is written on the subject. So many have written about it, and there's even scientific backing behind it!

It all boils down to a straightforward method:

Keep a list of your daily accomplishments.

You can do it in writing, in a notebook or on Post-its, in digital form, in any note-taking application you use, or however you choose. Some people update their list once daily, and others do it immediately after finishing a task or before a context switch. I prefer the latter, as it's easier to remember even small details when adding them during the day.

I use Notion as my favorite note-taking application and knowledge management tool, so I keep my list there. However, I prefer to open a separate window on my screen for this purpose, and I keep it open alongside my other windows, so I can easily see and add new entries during the day.



A simple method for keeping perspective

The method is straightforward: I use a simple database (or table) with basic categories for each entry (work/personal/home) and tags to give context to the entry.

Every time I do something meaningful during the day, for example - going to the pharmacy or helping someone at work, I write it down and add context. Then, I sort the table by date.

Add to your table other fields that will help you gain more insight, such as:

  • Was this activity planned;

  • How long it took to finish;

  • Were you distracted, and what was your focus level;

  • Energy level;

Keep the number of details small, so it won't require too much effort to fill and eventually deter you from keeping the list. Make it as easy and as simple as you want.

The last part of this method is taking a few minutes to review at the end of the day.


Review

First of all, let yourself feel satisfied with your daily achievements. Next, consider where your planning was different from your actual duties, how long certain things take you, your energy levels, and your focus on each task. Finally, notice unexpected tasks and how much of your day is unplanned.

Doing this exercise daily, or however often you prefer, will likely motivate you and make you feel accomplished. So go ahead, start your list, and add your first item: "Started a done list." It will end up with a long and satisfying list!

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