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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 March 15, 2019

      How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

      How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

      When I began managing people 15 years ago, I thought having a fancy title was synonymous with influence. Over time, I learned that power is conferred based on likeability, authenticity, courage, relationships and consistent behavior. When leaders cultivate these attributes, they earn power, which really means influence.

      Understanding influence is essential to professional growth, and companies rise and fall based on the quality of their leadership.

      In this article, we will look into the essentials of effective leadership and how to be a leader who is inspiring and influential.

      What Makes a Leader Fail?

      A host of factors influence a leader’s ability to succeed. To the extent that leaders fail to outline a compelling vision and strategy, they risk losing the trust and confidence of their teams. Employees want to know where a company is going and the strategy for how they will get there. Having this information enables employees to feel safe, and it allows them to see mistakes as part of the learning journey versus as fatal occurrences.

      If employees and customers do not believe a company’s leadership is authentic and inspiring, they may disengage, or they may be less inclined to offer constructive criticism that can help a company innovate or help a leader improve.

      And it is not just the leadership at the top that matters. Middle managers play a distinct role in guiding teams. Depending on the company’s size, employees may have more access to mid-level managers than they do members of the C-suite, meaning their supervisors and managers have greater influence on the employee and the customer experience.

      What Is Effective Leadership?

      Effective leadership is inspiring, and it is influential. Cultivating inspiring and influential leaders requires building relationships across the company.

      Leaders must be connected to both the teams they lead as well as to their own colleagues and managers. This is key as titles do not make a person a leader, nor do they automatically confer influence. These are earned through trusting relationships. This explains why some leaders can get more out of their teams than others and why some leaders experience soaring profits and engagement while others sizzle out.

      Eric Garton said in an April 25, 2017, Harvard Business Review article:[1]

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      “… inspiring leaders are those who use their unique combination of strengths to motivate individuals and teams to take on bold missions – and hold them accountable for results. And they unlock higher performance through empowerment, not command and control.”

      How to Be an Inspiring and Influential Leader

      To be an inspiring and influential leader requires:

      1. Courage

      The late poet Maya Angelou once said,

      “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

      Courage is required in the workplace when implementing new strategies, especially when they go against professional norms.

      For instance, I heard Lisa TerKeurst, bestselling author and founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries, explain her decision to move away from her company’s magazine. While the organization had long had a magazine, she saw a future where it didn’t exist.

      In order to make the switch, she risked angering her team members and customers. She took a chance, and what started out as a monthly newsletter, has grown into a multi-dimensional organization boasting half a million followers. Had Lisa not found the courage to change the direction of her organization, they undoubtedly would not have been able to experience such exponential growth.

      It also takes courage to give and receive feedback. When leaders see employees who are not living into the company’s mission or who are engaging in behavior that may undermine their long-term success, one must risk temporary angst and speak candidly with the colleague in question.

      Similarly, it takes courage to hear constructive criticism and try to change. In business, as in life, courage is necessary for being an inspiring and influential leader.

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      2. A Commitment to Face Your Internal Demons.

      If you feel great about yourself, enter a leadership position. You are likely to be triggered in ways you didn’t think possible. You are also likely to receive feedback that may leave you second-guessing yourself and your leadership skills.

      The truth about leading others is that you get to a point where you realize that it is difficult to take people to places where you yourself haven’t gone.

      To be an influential and inspiring leader, you have to face your own demons and vow to continually improve. Influential leaders take their personal evolution serious, and they invest in coaching, therapy and mindfulness to ensure that their personal struggles do not overshadow their professional development.

      3. A Willingness to Accept Feedback

      Inspiring and influential leaders are not afraid to accept feedback. In fact, they actively solicit it. They understand that everyone in their life has a lesson to teach them, and they are willing to accept it.

      Inspirational leaders understand that feedback is neither good nor bad but rather an offering that is critical to growth. Even when it hurts or is an affront to the ego, influential leaders understand that feedback is critical to their ability to lead.

      4. Likability

      Some people will argue that leaders need not worry about being liked but should instead focus on being respected. I disagree. Both are important.

      When team members like their boss and believe their boss likes them, they are more likely to go the extra mile to fulfill departmental or organizational goals. Likable leaders are moved to the front of the line when it comes to being influential.

      Relatedly, when colleagues feel management dislikes them, they experience internal stress and can spend unnecessary time focusing on the source of their manager’s discontent versus the work they have been hired to do.

      So, likability is important for both the leader and the people she leads.

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      5. Vulnerability

      Vulnerability is critical for being an inspiring leader. People want the truth. They admire leaders who can occasionally demonstrate vulnerability. It promotes deeper relationships and inspires trust.

      When leaders can showcase vulnerability appropriately, they destroy the illusion that one must be perfect to be a leader. They also demonstrate that vulnerability is not a dirty word; they too can be vulnerable and ask for a helping hand when necessary.

      6. Authenticity

      Authenticity is about living up to one’s stated values in public and behind closed doors.

      Influential leaders are authentic. They set to live out their values and use those values to guide their decisions. The interesting thing about leadership is that people are not looking for perfect leaders. They are, in part, looking for leaders who are authentic.

      7. A True Understanding of Inspiration

      Effective leaders are inspirational. They understand the power of words and deeds and use both strategically.

      Inspiring leaders appropriately use stories and narratives to enable the teams around them to see common situations in an entirely new light.

      Inspirational leaders also showcase grit and triumph while convincing the people around them that success and victory are attainable.

      Finally, inspiring leaders encourage the teams they lead to tap into their own genius. They convince others that genius is not reserved for a select few but that most people have it in them.

      As explained in the article True Leadership: What Separates a Leader from a Boss:

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      “A leader creates visions and motivates team members to work together towards the same goal.”

      8. An Ability to See the Humanity in Others

      Inspiring and influential leaders see the humanity in others. Rather than treating their teams as mere tools to accomplish organizational goals, they believe the people around them are unique beings with inherent value.

      This means knowing when to pause to address personal challenges and dispelling with the myth that the personal is separate from the professional.

      9. A Passion for Continual Learning

      Inspiring and influential leaders are committed to continual learning. They invest in their own development and take responsibility for their professional growth.

      These leaders understand that like a college campus, the workplace is a laboratory for learning. They believe that they can learn from multiple generations in the workplace as well as from people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

      Influential leaders proactively seek out opportunities for learning.

      The Bottom Line

      No one said leadership was easy, but it is also a joy. Influencing others to action and positively impacting the lives of others is a reward unto itself.

      Since leadership abounds, there is an abundance of resources to help you grow into the type of leader who inspires and influences others.

      More Resources About Effective Leadership

      Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Harvard Business Review: How to Be an Inspiring Leader

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