Got-Done Lists: Do They Work?

With the holiday celebrations well behind us and the first month of the year nearly over, many of us have been feeling the pressure to keep up with our resolutions, make progress toward our goals, and generally be productive. This pressure may have you looking for new hacks that will help you stay organized and get more done. 

From task boards to to-do lists, there are a number of different ways you can keep track of what you need to do, but let’s face it—more often than not these methods can be more stressful than helpful. You have to think about what tasks need to be completed, and what order to complete them in, write them down, then remember to check them off later, and that can be a lot of extra work. That’s why, the key to staying motivated, getting more done, and surpassing all of your goals this year may be to replace your to-do list with a got-done list. 

The Downside of To-Do Lists

Let’s make sure we’re clear first—not all to-do lists are bad or demotivating. However, when we look back at the history of to-do lists, we can see that even those who came before us sometimes struggled with them. Take Benjamin Franklin for example. He is often considered the ‘godfather of to-do lists’ because he was known to have created a detailed 13-week plan that included everything he set out to do. The plan was even complete with a progress report for each task he wanted to accomplish. But even he, like many of us, found it difficult to follow this plan given his busy schedule.  

While to-do lists can be a great way to wrap your mind around what you need to accomplish in a day, they can also lead to ‘to-do list overwhelm.” According to Dr. Roma Kumar, a seasoned psychologist, incomplete items on a to-do list can have a negative effect on our brains. We store unfinished tasks in our short-term memory bank so we can keep coming back to them. While this can help ensure we get the task done, it can also mean that our minds keep coming back to it, even when we’ve made the decision to put it off until tomorrow. This can lead to unnecessary stress and feelings of overwhelm. So how can you avoid this? The solution may just be to keep a got-done list instead. 

The Benefits of a Got-Done List

A got-done list is exactly what it sounds like—a list of tasks that you’ve already completed. By helping you focus on what you were able to achieve instead of what you still need to do, got-done lists come with a number of benefits such as…

Helping You See the Bigger Picture 
A got-done list does not come with a strict set of rules. It can be as simple as a place to track your daily tasks like exercising, visiting a friend, playing with your kids, or preparing a home-cooked meal. It can also be a list of work projects you have completed or even specific tasks you’ve already done as you work toward the end of the project.  When you consistently keep a got-done list,  it will paint the bigger picture of your life so you can look back on it and see how much you have accomplished. For example, if you did a 2-mile hike, putting it on your got-done list allows you to look back on it as a reminder that you are capable of pushing yourself beyond what you believe your limits to be. In the case of business, if you have made a certain profit, hired more staff, or reached some other goal, seeing it on your got-done list reminds you how work is going and motivates you to keep pushing to the next level. 

Helping You Stay Motivated
As mentioned, a got-done list pushes you to do and be more. If you had started your clean eating diet for the year, listing what you eat in a day lets you know your wins and where you can improve. If you are having writer’s block or a tough time at work, a list of what you have already accomplished can keep you motivated and moving forward.

Helping You Feel Accomplished
Remember, feeling a sense of accomplishment is not only about the big things you have achieved so far, it can also be the little things you do that count. If you want to be an author and you successfully work on one chapter, what’s stopping you from writing the next one? If you have been spending so much time at work and you notice that you are now bonding more with family and friends, then it shows you that you can effectively balance your work and social life. Look at your got-done list and celebrate those little accomplishments.

Helping With Your Mental Health
For many people, to-do lists can cause feelings of anxiety and stress, which we all know can impact our health in the long run.  If you instead choose to list out the things you have already done, you will be able to worry less about what you still need to do while also seeing that you are on the right track in your life.  This simple switch can not only help reduce your stress levels but can also improve your mood, memory, and cognitive function, making it beneficial for your mental health! 

Let’s Get Started With Your Got-Done List!

Are you convinced? Ready to ditch the to-do list and start a got-done list? Here are some tips to help you get started. 

1. Think About Your To-Dos
If you find yourself hesitant to ditch the to-do list completely, that’s okay. You can still benefit from a got-done list. Just keep your to-do list as short as possible, only including one or two of the most important tasks you need to accomplish that day. Once you have this short to-do list written down, use it as the base for your got-done list by adding to it throughout the day. 

2. Start Your Day, Check Your List
As you carry on with your day’s activities, come back to your got-done list frequently. When you’ve completed those important tasks you already wrote down, check them off, and when you complete any other task that isn’t already on your list, write it down and check it off, too.

3. Check Your List at the End of the Day
It has been a long day full of challenges and successes, it’s now time to wind down. Take a look at that list and take note of everything you have achieved in a single day! Try to avoid lingering on any tasks you wanted to accomplish but didn’t get around to, and instead celebrate all that you were able to get done. The more you do this, the more you will be amazed at just how much you are regularly accomplishing in a day. 

4. Take It Easy
As we already mentioned, don’t stress or worry too much about your list and how much you do or don’t put on it. We are all human, and we all only have 24 hours in a day. It’s okay if things don’t get done or if there are days we are less productive than we’d like to be. Be realistic with your time and your capabilities, and know that you can and should be proud of every item on your got-done list, no matter how small or menial they may seem. 

5. Keep Going
Make this a part of your daily routine. Keep all of your daily got-done lists in a single place, such as an online task tracker or a hand-written bullet journal so you can look back on your productivity in the future. You will be amazed at the end of each week, month, or year at just how much you were able to accomplish. 

Start Your Own Got-Done List

It’s natural to feel tired and overwhelmed, especially as you settle into a new year and everything that comes along with it. Help keep yourself motivated and productive this year by replacing that never-ending to-do list with a got-done list instead. Trust us, once you start, you’ll never look back. So go ahead. Start your own got-done list today, and don’t forget to put ‘start a got-done list’ as a task you’ve already completed! 

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