Done List

The done list is where you write down everything that you've accomplished. It's the absolutely vital complement to the to-do list that productive people like Marc Andreessen use.

When you reflect on your day's accomplishments, you'll often realize that you got more done than you'd otherwise give yourself credit for. It'll set you up to make improvements and feel great about tackling the next day.

How 3 Entrepreneurs End Their Day Even When They Have More Work To Do

For the most productive people, the work is never done. The problem is that when there’s always more work to do, how can you possibly end your day and go home without feeling stressed out and guilty?

You might think that this is just a personal problem, but it turns out that this is a struggle that even the most successful entrepreneurs have had to grapple with.

Here is the system that three highly effective and seasoned tech executives use to manage their own psychology. It’s not sexy, but it’s incredibly powerful, and it’s a simple process you can start today — tracking and reflecting on your day’s accomplishments.

David Heinemeier Hansson (37signals) quote on daily reflection

“One pattern to help yourself fight the mad dash for the mirage of being done is to think of a good day’s work. Look at the progress of the day towards the end and ask yourself: ‘Have I done a good day’s work?’”

David Heinemeier Hansson, 37signals

Taking time for daily reflection on the question “Have I done a good day’s work” is “liberating” because if the answer is yes, “you can leave your desk feeling like you accomplished something important, if not entirely ‘done.’”

If the answer is no, you’re empowered to delve more deeply into why that happened and how you can fix it.

For the people who think they’re too busy to take time out for what sounds like just another task, here’s the twist — “it feels good to be productive,” and feeling productive requires that you take time out to recognize your accomplishments.

When you do, you’ll get on a roll and you’ll want to keep the momentum going. “And if you can keep the roll, everything else will probably take care of itself.”

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How Benjamin Franklin Stayed Focused on What’s Important, Every Day

image Benjamin Franklin was a man who got a lot done. He was “a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat” — in addition to being one of America’s founding fathers.

But early in life, Franklin was just another guy who struggled with time management. At age twenty in July of 1726, on a sea voyage home to Philadelphia from London, Franklin began to think more about what productivity really meant and how to achieve it.

What was important to Franklin was not the external goals of making money or being famous. It was about the type of man he wanted to be. Out of that thinking, Franklin developed his thirteen virtues, a list of character traits to live by.

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Master Your To-Do Lists

[T]ry picking a stubborn item from your own to-do list and redefining it until it becomes something that actually involves moving one of your limbs… Breaking each task down into its individual actions allows you to convert your work into things you can either physically do, or forget about, happy in the knowledge that it is in the system.

Tom Stafford, “The Psychology of the To-Do List”, BBC.com.

Discover four more helpful to-do list tips and how to master the art of to-do lists by understanding why they fail.

How to Get Your Team to Stick to New Habits

As Chief Happiness Officer, Ginni ensures that iDoneThis is helping teams and companies stay connected, enhance productivity, and improve their inner work life. Every so often, a team leader will reach out to ask why some team members just aren’t getting on board. Ginni reached out to friend, time coach and productivity expert Elizabeth Grace Saunders for some advice. (This is the 2nd of a 3-part “Manager’s Series”).

Previously, I addressed how emotions such as overwhelm can prevent your team members from implementing changes. But sometimes the key factor limiting people’s behavior isn’t how they’re feeling but not knowing how to integrate the change into their own work habits.

As a time coach, trainer, and author of The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment, I’ve seen that people can understand how a tool or technique functions as an independent entity. But the gap between how something works and how something works for them isn’t easy for many to cross. That’s why in Chapter 7 of my book, I include a step-by-step guide of all the areas to consider when you’re crafting your own routine.

To get you started, I’ll explain four of those considerations here. Go through these with your team the next time you’re trying to implement a new practice, such as having everyone use iDoneThis. Remember that team members may have different answers to these questions resulting in dissimilar methods—that’s natural and normal. The method isn’t as important as achieving the end goal of lasting behavioral change.

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Making Your To-Do List Work

The Wall Street Journal‘s At Work blog put together a great collection of 10 career and work resolutions for the new year. We can definitely get on board with: Redo Your To-Do List.

Heidi Grant Halvorson explains a particular strategy called if-then planning:

The trick is to not only decide what you need to do, but to also decide when andwhere you will do it, in advance.  The general format of an if-then plan looks like this:

If (or When) ___________ occurs, then I will ________________.

For example:

When it’s 3 p.m. today, then I’ll stop whatever I’m doing and work on that project.

If it’s Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, then I’ll go to the gym before work.

If it’s Tuesday morning, then I will check in with all my direct reports.

This technique is also called implementation intention, a planning strategy that helps automate a desired action with cues and context.

Read the science behind making to-do lists for more details and strategies like implementation intention to help you become a to-do list master!

How to Master the Art of To-Do Lists by Understanding Why They Fail

I don’t like to-do lists but found it odd that I still continue to use them. Is my list-making just a futile exercise or productivity-flavored self-torture?

The to-do list is an inescapable, age-old productivity tool. It is our very human attempt to create order in our disorderly lives and an expression of our ability to impose self-control. Most of us, including to-do list haters, keep one, and so do  63% of professionals, according to a survey released by LinkedIn in May 2012.

Yet to-do lists seem particularly difficult to tame.

At iDoneThis, we used to have a to-do task feature, and we discovered some interesting numbers demonstrating the common struggle to conquer our to-do lists:

  • 41% of to­-do items were never completed.
  • 50% of completed to-­do items are done within a day.
  • 18% of completed to­-do items are done within an hour.
  • 10% of completed to­-do items are done within a minute.
  • 15% of dones started as to-do items.

to-do list stats

In other words:

  • people aren’t that great at completing their to-do tasks;
  • tasks that do get completed are done quickly; and
  • tasks that are reported as done don’t correlate with planned to-do tasks.

The popular to-do list, then, appears to be rather ineffective, and it’s this paradox that may explain the spiky love/hate relationship that people have with to-do lists. Is the to-do list just a blunt instrument to wield in the quest for personal productivity and getting stuff done? Or does the weakness lie deeper in ourselves in our human struggle to impose order and control?

It seemed too facile to chalk up the poor figures to the simple failure of to-do lists and/or humankind, so we wanted to take a closer look into why people aren’t good at completing their to-do lists.

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Stop Worrying, Start Living

I’ve gotten better at the drudgery of real life, but I still suffer from bad habits. I put off difficult tasks, and then I feel guilty about putting off these tasks, and I blow that guilt out of proportion, and then I rub all these bad feelings around my insides like broken glass. I become a worry machine. It is not an overstatement to say that the despair of these tiny, accumulated failures keeps me from truly living, because it creates in me a need to hide from the world. I needed to figure out a way to get right with the world—not because I was going to die soon, but because I probably wasn’t.

Sarah Hepola, on the weight of to-do lists.