Ditch Your To-Dos: How To Use A “Done” List To Achieve Your Resolutions
Resolutions for the new year stem from a need for self-improvement. Whether your goal is to lose weight, quit smoking or finally write that book, it comes from a part of yourself where you feel lacking. Instead of a to-do list, try a “Done List” for a positive mindset to achieve your targets.
What Is A Done List And Why Is It Better?
One of the best tactics to stick to your resolutions is to create actionable tasks, rather than vague goals. For example, your resolution might be to “lose weight” but the actual tasks are “exercise daily” and “cut down sugar intake”. Seeing those items on your to-do list every day can be overwhelming. And if you miss them, it feels even worse — almost like it’s mocking you.
A good alternative to the traditional to-do list is the Done List. Essentially, this is a list that tracks your achievements, without keeping a record of the things you had to do and skipped. Inherently, it’s a more positive and happier way to look at your tasks than a list of unaccomplished items.
The Done List can be used to track even the wrongdoings — say, if you ate sugar when you weren’t supposed to, because technically, it’s still something you did. But as someone who has used Done Lists on multiple occasions to boost productivity, I would advise against that. Focus on the good, forget the bad. The Done List’s biggest selling point is its ability to motivate you, to show you how efficient you can be. It’s a picture of what you can do, not what you can’t do.
Where your to-do list is intimidating, your Done List is inspiring. You feel good when you look at all the things you have achieved. In fact, as 99u writes, you should chart every small win.
- Skipped a doughnut when you felt like having it? Write it down.
- Pushed yourself to do one more set of push-ups? Write it down.
- Saved money by walking instead of driving? Write it down.
The Done List not only motivates you positively, it also shows you which tasks you do most often for your desired result. The achievements you do most often are usually worth repeating. For example, you might not be meeting your dietary requirements, but you might be going to the gym regularly. This pattern tells you that exercise is a more achievable way for you to lose weight because it’s a process you enjoy.
Behavioural scientists at Chicago Booth university found that resolution achievers focus on finding an enjoyable process to their goal:
So the advice for the person who would like to get back in shape is to realize that what makes you follow through is the experience, not the goal. We don’t do things that don’t feel good, so it’s a good idea to plan some exercise that could be enjoyable, some diet that has food that you like to eat. And beyond this planning, as you do it, focus on the experience itself. When you exercise, try to enjoy the exercise; don’t think about “I’m losing weight, I’m getting in shape.”
One other trick I use for my Done List is to quantify each achievement with numbers. Numbers help in measuring output, whether it’s in the form of weight lost, money earned, time saved, or anything else. For example, my productivity column for yesterday looked like this:
- Wrote article on Wikipedia
- Wrote article on passwords
- Wrote web content for client X
- Sourced a phone for review
- Checked out Workflow for iOS
- Earned $150
Money is a motivator for me when it comes to my work, so it helps to spur me on when I see a measurable number that I have achieved. When I wasn’t freelancing, I calculated my hourly wage rate to measure how much I earned every day. It’s the small things, but like we already know, you need to count the small wins.
To sum up, remember these five points to make a successful Done List:
- Write down only achievements, not misses
- Track every small win
- Find your patterns and enjoy those processes
- Quantify your achievements
- Approach it with a positive mindset
The Best Apps And Tools For A Done List
Microsoft Excel/Google Sheets (Web, Windows, Mac, Android, iOS)
You don’t always need a fancy app. I prefer to use Google Sheets for my daily Done List because it’s accessible anywhere, easy to update, and can be tweaked to use charts and figures. Of course, you can also replicate that with Microsoft Excel. In fact, Ryan has written a detailed guide on how to use Excel to create a goals management system , and you can use most of his tips for it.
iDoneThis makes it easy for you to update your Done List, and is one of those motivational apps to spur you into action . Every evening, it will mail you to find out what you did today; just hit reply, write down your list, and you’re done. In the morning, you’ll get a daily digest from other iDoneThis users to show you what they achieved — a dose of inspiration to kick off the day. Finally, your friends can also like and comment on your achievements, giving you a boost when needed.
Diaro (Web, Android, iOS)
Diaro is a cross-platform journaling app. While its purpose is more encompassing than a Done List, you can still use it as one. Each day, just write down what you achieved and keep our five points in mind. The mobile apps for Android (read our Diaro review ) and iOS make daily updates an easy, delightful experience. When you want to review your list to find patterns, I’d recommend using the web app since you can use the extra real estate of your big monitor to check out the monthly list view.
Simple Text File / SimpleNote (Web, Android, iOS, Mac)
There is nothing stopping you from using good old Microsoft Notepad or Mac’s Notes, or a cross-platform note-taking app like SimpleNote . After all, you only need a blank space to write the date and follow it with what you have done. A notepad does that perfectly well. Of course, you won’t get the bells and whistles of a daily email or charts and graphs, but you can’t beat this for simplicity.
Debate: To-Do List vs. Done List
Which system is more productive and actually helps accomplish goals and tasks? It’s time to debate in the comments!