Do you keep a to-do list? Some of us do and maybe we lose the darn thing. Perhaps our to-do list makes us feel like garbage at the end of the day when we only notice what we did NOT get done.
I have a complicated relationship with to-do lists. They are undeniably useful for plotting out your day or week ahead of time, and they can be a great way to hold yourself accountable for getting things done.
But they are designed to remind you of all the things you haven’t done. As soon as you cross off one task, another one or two or 10 await you. The whole exercise can be a dispiriting reminder that no matter how hard you work or how much you accomplish, there will always be more work to do until you die.
Focusing on what’s next (for example: our to-do lists) means we skate right past our wins, no matter how big or small they are. Students don’t celebrate a good grade on a test but instead start worrying about the next test. You finish a project at work and you rush to start the next thing you’re behind on.
Because of the discouraging nature of to-do lists, I’ve added a Ta-Da or Done List to recognize what I’ve accomplished. I call my Done List a Ta-Da List because it sounds more celebratory and fun. After all, celebrating your wins is the whole purpose of the Done List.
A ta-da list is a log of the tasks you’ve completed. Keeping a ta-da list has the power to feed your motivation, and heighten positive emotions like joy and pride. It can make creative productivity more sustainable by helping you experience a sense of progress for work that matters to you.
The idea behind the Ta-Da or done list is simple, regardless of what the list looks like. Keeping track of what you do makes you feel productive, which makes you feel happy and energized, which translates into more productivity going forward.
The simple act of writing down and keeping track of what you accomplish is motivating. Your done list gives you credit for the full breadth of your accomplishments, capturing everything that came up during the day that might not have been preordained by your to-do list.
To be honest, the main reason I keep maintaining my Ta-Da list is that it feels good. Unlike most productivity hacks, it doesn’t feel like a chore or like something I’m making myself do; it feels like a pleasure. I get a buzz of self-satisfaction every time I update it. (For what it’s worth, it does not take much time to maintain—I spend maybe 30 seconds a day updating the list.)
You might roll your eyes at me for wanting to pat myself on the back for every little thing I get done. Butmost productivity techniques require a little self-trickery.
The process of reflecting and writing down what you’ve done – creating a ta-da list, has the almost magical effect of amplifying motivation and productivity at tasks that matter.
When we reflect on progress, we practically metabolize it. Jot down completed tasks, and view them as “wins,” or progress towards your final goal(s), and you can externalize and recognize them. ”
Small wins have power beyond themselves – Momentum
Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win.
If reflecting on our wins makes them seem more “real,” and small wins help generate more and often larger wins, the least we can do is write down our accomplishments, right?
Wins also heighten positive emotions and intrinsic motivation, which result in more creative productivity.
Given that we can’t always control external sources of motivation, like recognition from our boss, family and peers, drawing from our internal well of motivation by recognizing wins is a success strategy. The ta-da list means that we can create motivation no matter where we find ourselves or what’s happening around us.
How to implement a Ta-Da List
Keeping a done or ta-da list in addition to your to-do list is a quick and simple way to increase success and well-being. How do you create these lists in a way that fits your needs?
Here are some approaches to try.
- At the end of each day, jot down your wins for the day. Research suggests that handwriting activates different, critical areas of the brain that affords us clarity over typing.
- At weeks end, review your ta-da list. Share with a friend, boss, co-worker or spouse your wins and ask them to share their wins. Speaking, requires translating thoughts into words, which externalizes those thoughts and allows us to see them for what they are so we can celebrate and move forward.
- Got a project that feels overwhelming? Keep a done list for each project you work on. This can help you experience a sense of progress towards completing the project.
Why not trick yourself into feeling better about your work, just by paying closer attention to how you actually spend your time?
How amazing would it feel to end each day focusing on your accomplishments, rather than the never-ending mountain of tasks waiting for you come morning?
How do you recognize your progress for maximum results? Share your thoughts in the comments below.