Turn Your To-Do List Into a Ta-Da List!

I was talking to someone recently about a digital task manager. Their previous system was a random collection of post-it notes and notebooks, so I persuaded them to experiment and bring it all together into an app where they could see everything in one place.

After trying a task manager app for a week, they told me that it made them feel even more overwhelmed than before. This was not the response I expected, so I dug a little deeper. The problem was not the task manager but the sheer number of tasks on their lists.

I explained that it was perfectly normal to still have tasks on your to-do list at the end of the day. After all, some projects will take weeks or even months to complete. That’s just the nature of the beast. Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I began to understand what they meant.

Task managers can be overwhelming, and they don’t work for everyone. Instead of empowering this person with an organized list of things to do, a task manager made them feel depressed and unproductive.

It’s Time to Flip the Script

One of my favorite authors, Daniel Pink, has an alternative approach. He suggests that instead of spending your whole day with a bloated to-do list, you should start with a blank piece of paper.

Each time you complete a task, you write it down. Did you finish the sales report today? Write that down. Did you triage your email inbox? Great! Write it down. Did you take out the trash? Add that too!

Each time you write something on that piece of paper, you get the immediate satisfaction of being able to take something else off your to-do list. However, you also have a visual record of all your achievements. Everything you do in a day is right there in front of you.

I love this idea. It upgrades your to-do list to a ta-da list and gives you a mindset of success. If you want to feel good about your to-do list, you have to make time to celebrate the things you have achieved.

Photo by lilartsy on Unsplash

Keeping a Productivity Record

Although you could raid the office copier for a new piece of paper each day, a notebook could be a worthwhile investment. Imagine having a daily account of all the things you have done. Over time, you would have a personal productivity record to look back on for motivation or affirmation.

If you are not a notebook person, consider a notetaking app like Workflowy or a journaling app like Day One. For some, it won’t be as satisfying as pen and paper, but it would make your personal productivity record searchable and available to take with you wherever you go.

A method like this doesn’t replace a to-do list. In fact, it shouldn’t. You still need an efficient way to collect the tasks that need to get done. But if you want to combine your to-do list with a running record of the things you get done, you could try an app like Todoist.

Todoist is a digital task manager that has a feature called Karma. You accumulate Karma points when you check things off your list in Todoist. Over time, these points add up, and you can visualize your progress in colorful graphs based on your productivity trends.

Turning Over a New Leaf

When you move the focus away from your task list and concentrate instead on the things that you have achieved, you will start to look at your day in a whole new light. The number of tasks you need to complete won’t get smaller, but your motivation for tackling them will be through the roof.

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