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Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work and Done Lists Do

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work and Done Lists Do

If you’re only using a to-do list, there’s a good chance you’re making yourself less productive. It’s something that took me quite a while to understand.  There’s a simple but breathtakingly powerful fix to your to-do list — keep a done list.

By changing from listing the things that you are going to do, to writing down the things that you have done, my life has become a lot easier. Done lists give perspective to your to-dos and it motivates you to keep making progress, every day, until it’s Done.

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How come to-do lists don’t work?

The checklist format doesn’t work for projects and tasks that are open-ended. Plus, items and tasks can evolve or become obsolete by the time you hit lunchtime, and by the end of the day, your to-do list can look a totally foreign being compared to what actually needs to get done.

It’s too easy to get that smaller thing crossed off first. There are no commitment devices to firmly turn your resolve to the most important tasks rather than the simple ones. When smaller things are too easy to get done, smaller, less important things are all you will get done.

To-do lists also lead you away from motivation and control. The very pressure that can have such a positive impact in keeping you from the deep-end of lost time can just as much feel like nagging, leading to feelings of guilt and frustration rather than motivation and inspiration. Sometimes it feels like the list controls you, you don’t control the list.

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Get to done with a done list

The answer isn’t to get rid of to-do lists altogether but to remember that a to-do list is the beginning of the journey through Doing to Done. How do you get to done? Use a Done List, the yang to the yin of the to-do list.

The to-do list can motivate you by directing you to just put one foot in front of the other. The done list motivates you to keep walking in the first place because you’ve got all that “how-feet-work” business down. The done list’s surprisingly strong motivational powers come from the simple fact that you got stuff done. These aren’t intangible goals or wishful thinking but real results, results that bring all sorts of positive feelings and energy because you’ve achieved something and you want to keep going.

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The done list also gives you the gift of perspective, something that is much more difficult and unrealistic at the to-do stage. It allows you to review your day, gives you a chance to celebrate your accomplishments, and helps you plan more effectively.

Balancing act

While the to-do list is about the plan and the possibility of any day, the done list is about execution and evaluation. Together, they provide a balanced meal of productivity planning. With a routine of to-do and done, you’ll also be able to notice patterns and puzzle out what sorts of tasks aren’t making the journey from to-do to done and why. The done list’s balancing effect helps connect the dots between your expectations and your results, and to make better to-do lists to start your next day.

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5 Great Done List Tools

The beauty of the done list is that there’s more freedom and individuality around the process. It’s not beholden to check-boxes or simple itemization. It comes down to whatever works best for you. Here are four methods for you to try out.

    iDoneThis: iDoneThis is the done list that comes to you. It’s a simple tool that emails you every day prompting you to reply with what you’ve got done. It collects your dones into a handy calendar (which you can sync with Google Calendar or iCal). The e-mail notification method nudges you to keep up your done list so you don’t forget and the easy calendar-viewing option gives you a great way to review your dones!

    Use what you have:
    Fold in your new done list along with your to-do list method if it is flexible enough. That way it’ll be easy to compare your to-do list items with your dones. At the end of the day, flip over your to-do list and write down everything you got done.

      Take notes:

      Jot down your daily dones in a note-taking program like OneNote or Evernote. As soon as you start jotting things down, they automatically turn to into a done list. You can get over it later and see the tasks you were able to complete.

      Journals
      : Incorporating your dones into a journaling gives you room for reflection around your days and accomplishments. Even if you’re keeping a relatively short-format practice, journaling programs are a handy way to keep track of your dones. They provide a calendar-based system, syncing options, and enough of a blank slate so that you’re not bound up in the list format of many task management applications. Give RedNotebook or the Day One app a whirl and see how this works for you.

      Conclusion

      Have you ever tried swapping over to a “done” list? I hope there are some interesting ideas in here to give your productivity a natural boost. Let me know your thoughts on what helps you get the most work done.

      (Photo credit: To do list via Shutterstock)

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      Last Updated on May 24, 2019

      How to Be Productive at Home and Make Every Day a Productive Day

      How to Be Productive at Home and Make Every Day a Productive Day

      If you’ve ever wondered how to be productive at home or how you could possibly have a more productive day, look no further.

      Below you’ll find six easy tips that will help you make the most out of your time:

      1. Create a Good Morning Routine

      One of the best ways to start your day is to get up early and eat a healthy breakfast.

      CEOs and other successful people have similar morning routines, which include exercising and quickly scanning their inboxes to find the most urgent tasks.[1]

      You can also try writing first thing in the morning to warm up your brain[2] (750 words will help with that). But no matter what you choose to do, remember to create good morning habits so that you can have a more productive day.

      If you aren’t sure how to make morning routine work for you, this guide will help you:

      The Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy And Productive All Day

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      2. Prioritize

      Sometimes we can’t have a productive day because we just don’t know where to start. When that’s the case, the most simple solution is to list everything you need to get accomplished, then prioritize these tasks based on importance and urgency.

      Week Plan is a simple web app that will help you prioritize your week using the Covey time management grid. Here’s an example of it:[3]

        If you get the most pressing and important items done first, you will be able to be more productive while keeping stress levels down.

        Lifehack’s CEO, Leon, also has great advice on how to prioritize. Take a look at this article to learn more about it:

        How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

        3. Focus on One Thing at a Time

        One of the biggest killers of productivity is distractions. Whether it be noise or thoughts or games, distractions are a barrier to any productive day. That’s why it’s important to know where and when you work best.

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        Need a little background noise to keep you on track? Try working in a coffee shop.

        Can’t stand to hear even the ticking of a clock while writing? Go to a library and put in your headphones.

        Don’t be afraid to utilize technology to make the best of your time. Sites like [email protected] and Simply Noise can help keep you focused and productive all day long.

        And here’s some great apps to help you focus: 10 Online Apps for Better Focus

        4. Take Breaks

        Focusing, however, can drain a lot of energy and too much of it at once can quickly turn your productive day unproductive.

        To reduce mental fatigue while staying on task, try using the Pomodoro Technique. It requires working on a task for 25 minutes, then taking a short break before another 25 minute session.

        After four “pomodoro sessions,” be sure to take a longer break to rest and reflect.

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        I like to work in 25 and 5 minute increments, but you should find out what works best for you.

        5. Manage Your Time Effectively

        A learning strategies consultant once told me that there is no such thing as free time, only unstructured time.

        How do you know when exactly you have free time?

        By using the RescueTime app, you can see when you have free time, when you are productive, and when you actually waste time.

        With this data, you can better plan out your day and keep yourself on track.

        Moreover, you can increase the quality of low-intensity time. For example, reading the news while exercising or listening to meeting notes while cooking. Many of the mundane tasks we routinely accomplish can be paired with other tasks that lead to an overall more productive day.

        A bonus tip, even your real free time can be used productively, find out how:

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        20 Productive Ways to Use Your Free Time

        6. Celebrate and Reflect

        No matter how you execute a productive day, make sure to take time and celebrate what you’ve accomplished. It’s important to reward yourself so that you can continue doing great work. Plus, a reward system is an incredible motivator.

        Additionally, you should reflect on your day in order to find out what worked and what didn’t. Reflection not only increases future productivity, but also gives your brain time to decompress and de-stress.

        Try these 10 questions for daily self reflection.

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        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

        Reference

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