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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 June 22, 2018

      How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years

      How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years

      Debt is never a fun thing to be in. But, there are many actions that you can take that will help you rid yourself of the burden of debt once and for all.

      By coming up with a set plan, eliminating your debt can feel much easier than constantly thinking about it.

      This post will provide some tips on how you can do this to help you nix your credit card debt in less than 3 years.

      Hint: there are ways that are easier than you think.

      1. Consider consolidating multiple credit cards if possible

      This may not be applicable to you, but if you have multiple cards – it is something to consider. Keeping up with multiple bills is time consuming.

      It will depend on the balance you have on each. Consolidate ones you can but do not do it to the point that you get too close to the maximum limit. Also, it is ideal to pick the card with the lower interest rate.

      Consider if there are any fees or alternatively, rewards, with transferring a balance to another card. Watch out for fees. Note that some cards offer rewards for transferring a balance to them. This is extra cash that can help go towards paying off your debt.

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      Having one or two cards can make nixing your debt much simpler than keeping up with the balance of a bunch of cards. Keeping track of paying the minimum towards a bunch of cards is time consuming. Spend the time to consolidate instead to make the overall process simpler going forward.

      My tip: Have one main credit card. Have a second one that you use for necessities – such as groceries or gas – that offers rewards for those purchases (a lot of cards do) and set the second one on auto-pay. You should be able to pay off a smaller amount on auto-pay if it is a necessity. If you think you cannot, then you may need to cut down a lot on expenses.

      Why do I suggest doing this? Having one thing set to auto-pay is one less thing to think about. One less thing to waste time on. Same idea with consolidating to one main card. Tracking down too many is a hassle.

      2. Try to pay the full balance you spent each month at the very least

      You need to pay off the amount you are spending each month when that bill comes in. This is the amount you spent THAT month.

      Do not let the debt keep accruing while you work on paying any unpaid debt that has accrued. It will become a never-ending battle. Try as best as you can to be current on paying for each month’s expenses when that month’s bill comes out.

      If this is a strain, consider why. You may need to cut expenses. Or you may need to consider other cards. Or look at where this money is going.

      3. Pay extra when you can – every small amount counts

      This cannot be emphasized enough. If you are looking at a lot of credit card debt, it can look daunting, but each extra amount that you can put towards the debt will really add up – no matter how small it is.

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      It does not just reduce the principal amount that you have left to pay off, but it reduces the amount that is collecting interest. You will always save money with that reduced interest.

      4. Create a plan on how to pay extra

      Back to the main point, having this plan is giving you one less thing to think about.

      This plan should be a plan that works for you. If it does not work for you, your spending habits, and your views on debt, then it will not be an effective plan.

      For instance, if a set plan of an extra $50 (or another amount that you know you can afford) works for you, then do that. Set that aside every month and pay that extra amount. Treat it like a bill. Choose an amount that works for you and pay it like clockwork as though it was a bill you had to pay each month.

      Little amounts will not nix it entirely, but they will help tackle it and having a set plan can make it less of a chore. Creating a new plan of how much to put towards it each month is an unnecessary added stress.

      5. Cut out costs for services you do not use

      If you are signed up for subscriptions that you do not use because of some free trial or for some other reason, cut it out. Your overall financial position will look better.

      In turn, that will make cutting your credit card debt easier. Look at your statements to find these expenses. If you do not use them, you may forget you are paying some unnecessary amount each month. Cutting it out can really add up in savings that you can put towards other needed expenses.

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      6. Get aggressive about it

      Consider these points:

      Depending on the interest and the level of debt, you may need to give up a few indulgences. For example, instead of ordering delivery or going out to eat, cook at home. Everything adds up.

      Other things may be more of a sacrifice. It may be a trip you wanted to go on, or a daily latte habit you’ve picked up. In these instances, consider how important it is to you and if it’s worth the sacrifice. And if it is a costly expense, think whether you can wait to indulge.

      Cutting an extravagant expense can really help make a dent in your overall debt. Try not to add to debt when you are trying to pay it off. It will be a never-ending battle. Make it less of a battle with these tips and it will feel easier.

      Bottom line: Do what you can to make this process easier for you. Implement steps that do this. It takes time now, but will help overall. Also, keep track of your spending and paying down of your debts. Which is the next point.

      7. Reevaluate your progress at set intervals

      Doing a regular check-in can help you see your efforts pay off or maybe indicate that you need to give this a bit more effort. If you check every 3-6 months, it will not feel so much like a chore or feel so daunting.

      By doing this, you will be able to better understand your progress and perhaps readjust your plan. Bonus: if you see it pay off, it will feel great to do this check-in. You will get there.

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      Finally (and most importantly)…

      8. Keep trying

      Do not get discouraged. Pushing it off will make it worse. Just keep trying.

      Once your debt becomes lower, each monthly payment will reduce the balance more. Why? You are paying less towards interest. It will be a snowball effect eventually and it will become much easier to manage. Just get to that point. And know once you do, it will feel easier and motivating.

      Start knocking out your debt today

      The best way to eliminate debt is to get started right away. Begin by implementing the above steps and watch your debt just melt away. Try out some of the above strategies and see what works best for you. Soon you’ll be on your way to a debt free life.

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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