This Works for Me

Move Tasks From Your To-Do List to an ‘I Did’ List

It can change your whole outlook

Credit: Nora Carol Photography/Getty Images

BBeing a freelance writer, I’m free to create my own schedule each day, which usually means I work on a jumble of projects until I go to bed. I’ll cross one item off my to-do list, just to replace it with another. I’m never “done,” which often leaves me anxious, restless, and in a perpetual state of self-pity.

I was dating a psychologist recently and told her about this frustration of mine. While things didn’t work out between us, she did leave me with some valuable advice from her toolbox: To counter my feelings of disappointment, she suggested I keep an “I did” list — a running tab of daily accomplishments. By focusing on what I’ve done instead of what I haven’t, she told me, I would feel more content and in control.

It seemed like such a tiny adjustment that I was initially skeptical. Could something this simple really be enough to improve my outlook?

Still, I decided to give it a try. About a month ago, alongside my to-do list in my Notes app, I created another list and named it “I did.” Every time I would do something — whether it was a mundane task, like answering an email, or a major success, like writing 1,000 words for the novel I’m working on — I would cross it off my to-do list and add it to my “I did” list. Then, at the end of each day, I’d take a moment to revel in all that I had accomplished.

Research shows that writing down our achievements each day — even the smallest ones — changes how we feel and perform. I fully believe it now: Through this one tiny adjustment, I learned that I do more in a day than I ever realized. This sense of achievement propels me to keep up the rhythm.

The best part: The list has given me a clearer vision of the progress I’m making towards my goals. I’ve been able to reflect on the accomplishments that feel most meaningful to me, and adjust my daily schedule so I can prioritize more of that type of work. I now put the biggest and most daunting tasks first — the ones that make me anxious, but will get me closer to what I’m trying to achieve.

It’s an easy change to execute. You can make your own “I did” list in an app such as Notes, Asana, or Evernote, or you can use good ol’ pen and paper. Another option is to compose a new email each morning, add completed tasks to it throughout the day, and then send it to yourself in the evening. It might seem like extra work, but the idea is to stop and think about your actions. Feeling proud of your accomplishments at the end of the day will help you look forward to tomorrow.

I write Black Mirror-esque short stories and share writing & freelancing tips. Amazon best-selling author. Free eBook with writing tips:

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