I used to be in love with my to-do list, but it turned into a toxic relationship pretty quickly. I was Gretchen Wieners, and the list was Regina George. Have you ever felt personally victimized by your own to-do list?
“HAVE YOU EVER FELT PERSONALLY VICTIMIZED BY YOUR OWN TO DO LIST?”
To-do lists aren’t bad. Goal-setting has been a major practice in my life since age 15, thanks to my mom. With these grand visions and projects set for various aspects of my life, chipping away at it bit by bit helped me maintain my sanity.
This still wasn’t enough. When I started university 3 years ago, my inner Type A evolved into a monster. I developed a phobia of wasting time, an obsessive dependence on Google Calendars, and micro-managed every detail of my life across multiple Trello boards and to-do lists.
The problem with to-do lists is that they never truly end. Even after you cross off that last item and breathe a sigh of relief, there’s always something you can add – another task, goal, project, dream.
“THE PROBLEM WITH TO-DO LISTS IS THAT THEY NEVER TRULY END.”
In my busiest seasons, I would beat myself up for not being as productive as I hoped. My day revolved around my work/school to-do list, with no flexibility for relationships, health and personal growth. What I did was never enough.
Summer 2016 was hectic season for me. I had just returned from a semester abroad in Tel Aviv, and dove straight into an internship in the Indonesian film industry. I didn’t have a 9 to 5 routine due to the nature of my job, and it was hard to face my to-do list. The list was a tangible reminder of how behind I was on my goals.
It just so happened that I was reading John Maxwell’s Laws of Growth, which was on my reading list that summer. Maxwell stressed the importance of evaluated experience. Experience may be a good teacher, but evaluated experience is a true accelerator of growth. Not only does this allow you to assess areas that need improvement, but it also allows you to celebrate progress.
“CELEBRATE PROGRESS. CELEBRATE THE SMALL WINS.”
On August 14, 2016, I created the template for my very first weekly Done List. There are plenty of apps and tools that can help you create your own, but mine looks a little something like this:
One of the things I love about this format is that I can visually evaluate aspects of my life that were neglected throughout the week. Let’s say I had midterms all week. The “Academics” column would be full of bullets recording my study time. On the other hand, the “Health” column may need a little love because I had traded the gym for late nights in the library.
These categories are pretty straightforward. In “Tasks”, I’ll usually jot down errands, calls and miscellaneous chores that still deserve to be recognized. Under the “Relationships” column, I’m reminded that time spent with family or friends is an opportunity to add value to the person. Using to-do lists, I used to see hanging out with friends as a distraction. With a Done List, relationships are represented as an integral part of my balanced life.
I’m still in my early 20s (just turned 21 a few days ago!), and want to achieve my dreams without burning out. For me, I’ve found that a to-do list is simply not sustainable. It’s not only important, but absolutely crucial to celebrate the small wins. Give yourself a pat on the back, and be grateful for how far you’ve come. Acknowledge growth, and reward progress. This is the only way you can continue to sprint towards that finish line.
Whether you’re building a startup, leading a team at work, or still pursuing your degree – don’t be personally victimized by your own to-do list. Give the Done List a try.
Signing off (and adding this to my Done List!) ,