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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 October 17, 2018

      7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

      7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

      How is your memory? Is your cognitive function as strong as you’d like it to be?

      If not, then you’re definitely going to be interested in the memory improvement tips I’ll be sharing with you in this article.

      Despite what you might think – or have been told – improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it. (Don’t worry, as you won’t need to make any significant lifestyle changes.)

      So how to improve memory? Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve your memory significantly.

      1. Meditate

      We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts and figures into our conscious minds.

      Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

      Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. And research suggests that the more information and distractions, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory.[1]

      Fortunately, meditation can help you out.

      Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

      If you need help in shifting into a meditative state, I recommend trying an app like Headspace – which can assist you to achieve this in a convenient and structured way.

      And don’t forget, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

      2. Get plenty of sleep

      If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then I’m guessing you’re not remembering well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

      If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities – including your memory.

      How much sleep should you be getting?

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      Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things.

      Now, I’ll be honest with you, maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!). But if you care about improving your short-term and long-term ability to remember things, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

      Are there ways to hack the sleep cycle?

      Yes, there are.

      Try these three things:

      • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
      • Don’t eat too late
      • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

      Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

      However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory…

      3. Challenge your brain

      When was the last time you challenged your brain?

      I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or undersleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and memory games.

      To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

      Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself, has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-thinking ability and memory.

      There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

      • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
      • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
      • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

      If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live – while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

      Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it, try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

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      4. Take more breaks

      When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctively remember working all the hours under the sun – and many under the moon too!

      At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat and tears.

      However, I was wrong.

      Taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

      Let me explain.

      Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it – in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

      Namely, extended study sessions are rarely a good thing, as your ability to retain information naturally declines after a certain period of time.

      It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

      It’s the same with your brain. If you overload it with information, you’ll suffer from mental fatigue.

      What’s the answer?

      Make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

      If you don’t want to be as regimented as that, then take breaks as soon as you find yourself losing the ability to focus on the new material. Your brain will thank you – and your learning aptitude will move up a level.

      5. Learn a new skill

      I love this quote, as it’s 100% true – but frequently overlooked:

      “Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

      From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

      Let me give you an example of this:

      Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day – many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

      Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

      The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you – rather than letting you work in your own way.

      Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like, and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction in to learning a new skill (computer coding). It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career – and the ongoing learning made the call centre job much more bearable.

      Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking our new information. And when learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly, becomes a habit too.

      6. Start working out

      If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

      Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory.

      Regular exercise increases blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. And a well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

      “But I just don’t have the time?,” I hear you say.

      Not a problem.

      A research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise, offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines.[2] So, if you’re short on time – now you know what to do.

      Interested in getting started?

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      Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

      • Join a gym
      • Join a sports team
      • Buy a bike
      • Take up hiking
      • Dance to your favorite music

      7. Eat healthier foods

      I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

      This applies to your brain too.

      The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health too.

      Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery and dark chocolate. But anything high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory.

      Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain – leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

      Want to be mentally healthy? Then eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

      • Turmeric – helps new brain cells grown
      • Broccoli – protects the brain against damage
      • Nuts – improves memory
      • Green tea – enhances brain performance, memory and focus[3]
      • Fish oilfish oil supplements can increase your brain power

      Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

      Final thoughts

      I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be of help to you.

      You don’t need to implement them all. I suggest just trying the ones that appeal to you.

      But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested. I’m confident you won’t regret it.

      Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

      Reference

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