For years, I have relied on the stability and reliability of To-Do lists. Whether I was organizing the items I needed to accomplish, such as household chores and shopping, or carefully constructing chapter-by-chapter notes for editing my newest novel, To Do Lists have always been at my left hand.
In the realm of time management, To-Do Lists are often called task lists. They have been a longstanding tool for productivity. By allowing the list maker to check off a task as soon as it is completed, the To-Do List shows not only what you have accomplished, but also what else there is to tackle.
The To-Do List can be old-school style, written on paper; or in a Personal Information Management system such as a PDA or Daily Planner. To-Do lists serve a simple purpose: they give the list maker a visible set of tasks, chores, or steps to be taken in order to complete any given project or action. Yet, as useful as To-Do Lists can be, sometimes they can overwhelm us.
At the start of 2010, I began my freelance writing career in full force. By mid-January, my never-ending To-Do List encompassed three pages and seemed to grow by the minute. Each day I struggled to check off items, yet the tasks on my list loomed. My motivation lagged and then sputtered out. I had found the curse of To-Do lists. They always reflect that which you have not accomplished but must complete. I was disheartened. The list had beaten me.
After my motivation left me, I abandoned my efforts to complete tasks that were on my list. For days, I puttered, doing nothing from the list and hating myself more each day. My mood soured and my ideas dried up. One evening, I spotted my favorite notepad nearby. I’d removed my list and hidden it from sight so now the pad had a fresh, clean sheet on top. My pen sat beside it, luring me to create a list.
Picking up my pad, I did something I had never done before. I made a list, but not of things I needed to do. I made a list of things I had done. One by one, I wrote down the items I had accomplished that day. In less than five minutes, I had two sheets of paper filled with the day’s random tasks. It stunned me.
Repeatedly I stared at the list, and as each accomplished item looked back at me, my faith in my ability to accomplish things grew. I set the notepad down upon my keyboard. In a daze, I went to bed.
The next morning, the “Have-Done” list awaited me. Again, I gazed down at the numerous, completed items. Yesterday I had accomplished over 46 tasks. Taking the list off the notepad, I taped it to the wall beside me. Throughout the day I worked, again at assorted tasks. My goal was to accomplish 47 tasks by bedtime. Not only did I meet my goal of 47 items, I exceeded it.
Since that time, I have made it a nightly habit to create a Have-Done List. While I still employ my To-Do List for tasks, I no longer allow the To-Do List to drive my ambition. Instead, I choose to use the self-motivation of my Have-Done List.
The To-Do List will remain a tried and true method of time and task management. It serves an excellent purpose. However, should you find yourself overwhelmed by your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks, why not try creating your own Have-Done List? By giving yourself a moment at the end of your day to list everything you have accomplished, you will find new motivation. Remember, the To-do List tasks will wait until you complete them, but the Have-Done Lists will move you forward in life.