How Many Things Did You Cross Off Of Your To Do List Today?
There’s nothing like starting your day by writing down on paper all of the things you need to get done. As the day goes on, you put a bold lines through the stuff you accomplish. Just the process of drawing that line through the projects you tackle, errands you run, and chores you muster the energy to complete, gives you a sense of accomplishment.
The Un-Done List
But, what if it’s one of those days when you aren’t able to get anything on the ‘To Do’ list done. Maybe the boss told you to set aside what you’re working on to focus on an assignment that your co-worker – who is in the hospital having an emergency appendectomy – was assigned.
The deadline for completion is 6 p.m. This means the errands don’t get done and you don’t get to take your afternoon walk during break time. As for the chores, forget it. By the time you get home, getting a jump on the laundry before the weekend gets here is the last thing you want to do. What started out as a ‘To Do’ list has become an Un-done list with no marks through it.
How does that make you feel? Defeated? Nonproductive? Discouraged?
We are all familiar with this feeling. Getting back on track tomorrow is going to be tricky. If the boss sidelines you again the result could be a mudslide.
What if, each day when you create your ‘To Do’ list, you took a piece of paper and titled it “The Done List”? Instead of putting a line through the items you’ve completed on the ‘do’ list, write down what you’ve accomplished on the ‘done’ list.
At the end a day when you haven’t been able to complete any of the items on the ‘do’ list, the ‘done’ list might be two pages. Or maybe it just has one sentence on it. For example: I completed the last minute project the boss gave me on time and without errors.
Suddenly all of the tasks on the ‘do’ list that didn’t get done seem less significant. You leave work feeling like you’ll be able to tackle those tomorrow.
What if we applied the ‘done’ approach to the things in our life that are really important , not just the items that we write down on paper that we need to get to today? What if every day we wrote down the things that illustrate that we’re taking good care of ourselves?
Our ‘done’ list might look like this:
- I did a 30 minute yoga DVD before work.
- I took a 15 minute walk on my break.
- I ate a banana and strawberries, and a spinach salad for lunch.
- I played Dance Dance Revolution with the kids for an hour after dinner.
The process will get you focused on the positive things that you’re doing for yourself and get your mind off of things like “I ate a cookie” or “I watched Real Housewives instead of going for a walk”.
Success Breeds Success
Dwelling on what didn’t happen is pointless. Looking at a To Do list with 30 things that need your attention is overwhelming and we tend to obsess over what we didn’t get to. It’s the same with behavior. If you have a plan to lose 10 pounds, and find yourself indulging in a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino at Starbucks, that’s all you’ll think about. It’s the small successes that propel us and move us forward; success breeds success. Honing in on our slip-ups defeats us and we lose our motivation.
The done list concept isn’t new. It’s been used by corporate managers to increase productivity for years. Individuals also have been using this strategy to improve their own output. If it increases motivation and adherence to reaching objectives, why wouldn’t focusing on accomplishments make it easier for people to change health behaviors?
Starting tomorrow, instead of focusing on everything that you have to do, spend some time reflecting on what you’ve accomplished. In particular, write down the things that you’ve done that are helping you reach you weight loss and exercise goals. It’s time to trade your To Do’s in for Done’s.
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