You know those days. You’re running around from meeting to meeting, switching screens, taking calls, replying to emails, sending out orders and by 5pm you say to yourself “what the hell did I actually get done today?”.


Well, you’re not alone. And one of the most popular ways to combating this sense of overwhelm is to start organizing it – usually by way of a to-do list. But I have a smarter solution – a done list!

What’s a done list?

A to-do list is just a list of things that you are going to do.  A done list is the just yin to the yang of the to-do list – a list showing all that you have done during the day.

Unlike the to-do list, it does not list intangible goals or wishful thing – only real things you actually accomplished.

What’s wrong with my to-do list?

To-do to lists are perfect for not forgetting to buy the milk or pick up the kids from soccer practice. But they are not so great for open-ended tasks or evolving tasks and have 3 major flaws that are impacting your motivation:

  • It’s too easy to check off the smaller things first – so small and often less important ‘busy’ work gets done. Not the work that will propel you towards your higher goals.
  • The list does not distinguish between what is urgent versus important. We naturally focus our efforts on what is urgent, leaving important things (like updating your business plan and goal setting) to fall wayside.
  • It leads to feelings of nagging, frustration and overwhelm – because the list will always, perpetually, be never-ending. No one will ever get it all done. Not ever. This leads to the list controlling you (insomnia anyone?) rather than you controlling it.

So how is a done list any different?

A done list switches your focus to what has been done, rather than allowing you to dwell on what has not been done. This has 2 distinct benefits:

  • The power of progress

Seeing results is motivating. At first, it may seem counter intuitive to spend time writing a list of things that have been done – but seeing a visible list of accomplishments is a powerful motivator that will give you the energy to keep going and to keep reaching for bigger, life-changing, goals… one day at a time.

  • The power of perspective

Just the act of writing down your accomplishment is forced reflection and it is the reflection of your day that will help to propel you forwards tomorrow – almost without meaning to, you’ll be asking yourself (even sub-consciously) when was I most productive? Could I have approached the task differently? What can I do different tomorrow?

How to do a done list.

There is no right or wrong way – just do what naturally comes to you.

But make sure you give the small steps towards you big goals the credit they are due and don’t only list big goals – it is important to include the small achievements (like connecting with an expert for your next blog post), they are just as important in advancing you towards to big hairy goal(s).

Some people write it out their list as they accomplish tasks during the day. I personally like to do it at the end of the day, as this helps me to better reflect and plan effectively for the next.

You can use paper and pen or an app. For the app savvy, as an accountant, I’m used to writing down how I’ve spent my time, so I use Toggl (which is free).  But you could also try iDoneThis (which is a paid service).

Done lists are just like any other habit — once you get in a groove, it’s easier to stay in it. And, as you walk through the door tonight, after a long busy day to the inevitable question of ‘what do you do today?’ from your partner, your answer will never be the same again!