So many of us have become slaves to the to-do list.
Maybe it’s the false sense of productivity (just writing out what you need to do means you’ve earned yourself another episode on Netflix, right?), or maybe all the bullet journals and study posts of tumblr have made us believe this is the way to have our lives together.
Whatever the reason we start out, to-do lists can become addictive and we can begin to feel like we won’t get anything done if we don’t have one.
I should know.
I have had a to-do list every single day since I was about 15. And these lists are no laughing matter. They are long. Very long. I even write down things I have to think about, the names of friends I need to message to catch up with, and reminders to do things I actually enjoy, like reading a magazine. I often rewrite my to-do throughout the day, adding things or culling things and feeling like a fresh list will inspire me. Of course, it never does. And a few days ago I realised I’d been staring at the same to-do list for about a week.
There were things on there that had been taunting me for days, begging to be completed and ticked off. But each day that something sits on that list, it becomes harder and harder to do it, making a simple task like emptying my bedroom bin seem like the most impossible of challenges.
I was in a to-do list rut and desperate measured needed to be taken.
The solution, I found, was the have-done list.
The premise is simple: rather than start your day with a list of all the tasks you need to do, start with a completely blank list and add to it each time you achieve something that day.
The day of writing this is my third day on the have-done list hype.
At first, it was like having a new toy and I was more excited to get things done just because it meant I could write something on the list and actually use my new technique – it was weirdly satisfying now that crossing something off a to-do list has been done so many times that I am entirely numb to it.
Admittedly it did feel slightly lame at times, especially as the university summer vacation has left me thinking that hoovering my room is a massive achievement. Writing all this down made me feel a little bit like a child who was receiving an unprecedented amount of praise for doing the tiniest chore.
However, my first day with this new approach saw me complete tasks that had been hanging over me for a week.
I also found that I wasn’t worrying about anything other than what I was doing, and I was better able to focus on the task at hand and get it done. This is probably because the only tasks I could see were ones that I’d already completed, making me feel satisfied and capable rather than stressed and bogged-down.
The best thing about it was that by the end of the day I was left with a list of all the stuff I had got done and all the things I had achieved, which was a beautiful sight compared to what I normally have – a huge list of things I still haven’t done that will form tomorrow’s to-do list, with a few extras added.
Overall, this new method was a great success. Of course, it could just be a novelty that wears off as quickly as the to-do list (and having a bullet journal, a studyblr, or any other method for productivity did) and it does require you to actually know what you need to get done without a list to remind you.
But I can see the have-done list, and its productivity-inducing effects, staying in my life for a while. And now I can write “wrote blog post” on today’s list. How exciting.