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Welcome back to another episode of the Creative Psych Podcast. Today I’m sharing a twist on a productivity classic.
I’m talking about turing a “To Do” list into a “Ta Done!” List or what Gretchen Rubin has called a Ta Da! List.
A traditional To Do list focuses on all of the things that you need to accomplish and a Ta Done List focuses on all of the tasks that you have accomplished.
This twist is effective because depression and anxiety can often leave use feeling overwhelmed and stuck at home and at work. Tasks pile up and the symptoms that often come along with depression and anxiety (fatigue, lack of motivation, difficulty concentrating and making decisions) make it difficult to take the first step of tackling a "to-do list".
Staring at a long list of things to do, you may worry that you won't ever be able to get it all done or that you aren't good enough for the job. If you think back to a couple of episodes ago-- those are automatic thoughts that are triggered by a particular situation --- in this case, having a lot to accomplish. Those automatic thoughts may lead to feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Overwhelm and anxiety are not super productive mental states.
You just end up feeling too bogged down to move forward. So you do nothing which further exacerbates the problem.
As an aside: If you are keeping a To Do list (which is a perfectly fine way of managing tasks), I really recommend keeping a master to do list and pulling off three things to do at a time each day. Research indicates that we can’t really accomplish more than this in any given day anyway. Staring at that giant list really distorts our understanding of what’s possible. It creates this expectation that we can accomplish 10 things so we feel disappointed in ourselves when we don’t cross everything off.
That's why I recommend keeping a master list and pulling three things off each day. If you get those three things done and there is still time in the day, return to the list and add a few more items. This technique helps manage expectations and can help increase focus and combat feelings of overwhelm.
OK Back to my more central point.
People with depression and anxiety often fall prey to the thinking error of “magnification and minimization”. Generally, we magnify things that we are doing wrong (or in this case not doing or have left to do on a to do list) and minimize or deny all of the things that we have accomplished. It’s essentially a negative bias toward seeing our screw ups and not noticing what we are doing right.
Next time you find yourself questioning your ability to manage the task at hand, try shifting your attention in a more positive direction.
Instead of focusing on all of the things that you have to do, try focusing on all of the things that you have already done.
Before beginning each work day, make a quick list of all the things you accomplished the day before.
Your list might look something like this:
Sent marketing email promoting future training
Filmed two sections of training webinar
Completed slides for upcoming live training
Returned 3 phone calls
Keeping a "Ta Done!" list can benefit you for a number of reasons.
It is encouraging: Working on large projects or ongoing tasks that don't have an end date can make you feel like you aren't getting anywhere.
Keeping a list of things that you have accomplished helps you see that you are taking meaningful steps toward a larger goal. Instead of starting off the day feeling overwhelmed and stuck, you can look at your list and feel productive and proud.
This is also a great exercise to complete at the end of the day if you often leave the office feeling drained. The "Ta Done!" list helps you practice gratitude for a job well done.
It can help you get more done: Keeping a "Ta Done!" list can help you take action throughout the day. The list puts you in friendly competition with yourself to accomplish more than the day before. The list transforms productivity into a positive game. Instead of trudging through a mountain of tasks, your tasks now become items you can add to your list of accomplishments for tomorrow.
Keeping a larger "Ta Done" list can have a similar effect on your overall career. If you find yourself feeling down because you are not where you want to be, or you don't think that you have accomplished enough, make a list of what you have already accomplished. You may be surprised at how good it makes you feel.
I did this when I was just starting out in my business. I was feeling so overwhelmed and discouraged because I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I didn’t have systems and processes set up, and I wasn’t seeing the number of clients that I wanted to see.
Honestly, my expectations were just way out of whack. I was holding myself to a standard that wasn’t realistic for the amount of time that I had been in business. But,I was also totally minimizing and denying all of the awesome stuff that I had accomplished up until that point. Keeping a Ta Done! List brought things back into perspective for me, and helped me keep going.
Here is an example of what a big picture “Ta Done” list could look like:
Finished my degree
Landed my first job.
Moved to a great city
Earned a promotion
Created a website
Wrote an awesome “about me” page
Went to two networking events (which was really hard for me at the time)
Invited someone out for coffee
Created a basic paperwork packet
Was seeing a few clients a month
That is just a small sample of all of the things that you could track. Many of my clients are shocked at all they accomplish when they start tracking it .
They are amazed that they are making real progress toward some of the big long term goals that they have for themselves. What are 10 things that you have accomplished so far this year? What about today? Make a list and share it on Instagram I'd love to celebrate with you!
Hey! I'm Samantha Osborne, a board certified counselor and host of the Creative Psych Podcast. I launched this show to help people just like you move from stuck to free. Want to connect? Come say hello on Instagram or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It makes my day to hear from listeners!