Why You Should Make a “Done List”

posted by Andrea | 01/7/2020

why you should make a done list

I’m a self-proclaimed list-making junkie!

I make lists for everything and anything… including my daily to-do list, which I write out EVERY night before I go to bed. 

I’m also hugely motivated by productivity. 

There’s no surer mood booster for me than when I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot (a.k.a. crossed everything off my list).

On the contrary, I can easily feel defeated and down in the dumps if I get to the end of my day with several to-dos left undone.

Can you relate?

to-do lists with computer and phone

I’m certain my passion for productivity is one of the main reasons motherhood was SO challenging for me in those early years.

Full days and weeks went by with seemingly nothing significant accomplished — at least according to my mostly un-done to-do list.

Looking back, my to-do lists were much too ambitious for a mother of an infant who never slept, but never-the-less, I constantly struggled with feelings of inadequacy, inefficiency, and a very negative self-worth. 

 

It was during those early months of motherhood that I began making “Done Lists” for myself almost every night. 

I’d force myself to look back over the day and write down every little thing I did — things like:

  • made the bed
  • took a shower
  • made dinner
  • held Nora while she took a nap
  • walked around the block
  • kept a newborn alive (with basically zero parenting experience!)
  • kept food in the fridge
  • did a load of laundry
  • read 5 pages in my book
  • picked up the living room
  • made breakfast and dinner for our family (and the international students that lived with us at the time)
  • packed lunches
  • held a fussy baby for a vast majority of the day

Yes, I know this might sound totally crazy…

BUT, I have a feeling those of you who thrive on productivity and crossing things off your list can totally relate to my struggles!

carrying baby in a boba wrap

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As the years went by and my expectations of what I could and could not accomplish each day became more reasonable, I stopped making a Done List every day. 

HOWEVER, it’s still something I do fairly regularly — sometimes actually writing it down and sometimes just mentally thinking through that day’s events as I sit at my desk, watch the kids play outside, chop veggies for dinner, or drift off to sleep. 

Honestly, making a Done List it’s one of the simplest things I do to instantly boost my mood.

It’s such a great feeling to look over a long list of things you accomplished (even simple things) instead of continually adding more and more to your to-do list and feeling overwhelmed by everything you need to do yet.

messy planner with various to-do lists

A Done List is also a fantastic way to practice gratitude, appreciation, contentment, and more.

For example, Dave and I often make a Done List at the end of every summer — when we sometimes feel like we “wasted” 10 weeks playing with our kids, making snacks for friends and neighbors, and continually cleaning sand out of every nook and cranny in our home.

I also had the kids make their own Done Lists of everything we did over Christmas Break. We had a full 2 weeks off from school, and while we honestly didn’t do anything super cool or exciting, it was extremely beneficial (for me and for the kids) to look back on our break and remind ourselves of all the special activities, fun holiday parties, play dates with friends, time with relatives, and various other extra things we sprinkled throughout our 2-week break.  

playing in the snow

If you’ve never made a Done List before, make 2020 the year you give it a try!

A few ideas you might put on your Done List:

  • time spent playing with your kids or grandkids
  • errands you ran
  • meals you prepared
  • pages of a book you read (for yourself or to children)
  • craft projects you planned or implemented
  • gifts you purchased, wrapped, or sent
  • hobbies you worked on
  • any household chore you made progress on
  • encouraging emails, texts, or cards you sent to friends or family
  • activities you finished
  • time spent at work, school, or volunteering
  • tackling homework with children
  • driving various family members to and from activities or meetings
  • watching a child’s sporting event or music concert
  • spending time with an aging or sick friend or relative
  • journaling or meditating
  • exercising or even just walking around the block
  • personal care (a.k.a. did you get a shower in today)
  • any other seemingly small task you can think of

I realize this might sound like a silly practice at first, but give it a try before you judge!

crossing off a to-do list

A Done List gives you perspective, it forces you to focus on the positive, and it’s a great memory booster too – what excellent habits to develop in this new decade!

Take a moment at some point today to think back over everything you’ve accomplished and physically write it down

Moving forward, I encourage you to make a Done List whenever you need a little boost or just want to slow down and reflect on all the small simple (but very worthwhile) things you accomplish each day. 

I’m telling you — it works!

Have you ever made a “Done List”?

If you’d like more motivation and inspiration to simplify your to-do lists (along with free customizable daily and weekly to-do lists) join my FREE 20-Day Simplify Your Life Challenge!

why you should make a done list

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36 comments

  1. Cindy

    01/09/2020

    Andrea,

    Although your morning routine is probably routine for you, just wondering if you started on your “To Do List” by writing down your routine? I am terrible at making lists thinking I can remember everything and then as I come across something that needs to be done, doing it then and then throwing off everything. What do you recommend? Need some help as I go through your Challenge.

    For instance, I have to have quiet time on the computer catching up on things, drinking coffee and really meditating where I want to be in the day and then all of the sudden I find myself cleaning out a drawer, folding laundry or doing something that keeps my mind in a constant hustle because I feel I am behind. NEED HELP!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Cindy,
    At this point, I really don’t have to write my routine down — it’s just ingrained in me after years of doing things the same way.
    I make my to-do list every night before I go to bed, and in the morning, I wake up, make the bed, get ready, and then start on my list (that IS my routine)

    Maybe one of your goals can simply be to write more lists. Keep sticky notes, small pads of paper, and pens in your bedroom, bathroom, office, and kitchen. Write everything down and then look at your notes often. I think you will FEEL much less behind and less frazzled if you know things are written and if you can reference your list to see things you’ve accomplished.

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  2. sue

    01/07/2020

    Do it every day, otherwise I feel like I got nothing done,
    when I know that I have done a bunch.

    Sue in NJ

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    good for you!

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  3. Margaret

    01/07/2020

    A great idea. I do the variant of adding other things I do–and crossing them off–but I’ve never done the “done list”.
    I can imagine it could be very helpful in dealing with depression as well. Will remember it if I start spiraling down again as a method of positively reinforcing things like getting out of bed and taking a shower. I find a to-do list a very helpful way of structuring my off-work time and helping to keep depression at bay, but a couple of steps lower and it’s just another unmet task,

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    try the “done list” — you’ll love it! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. Rachel

    01/07/2020

    Rather than make a separate Done List, I use a colored highlighter to cross things off on my original To Do list; that way, I can still see what I accomplished while visually marking off a completed task. I use this method with all of my lists: homeschool, grocery, daily tasks, packing for a trip, etc. Visually, itโ€™s easier on my eyes than all of the scribbles from a pen.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    good idea with the highlighter!

    For me, I don’t always write EVERY SINGLE THING I need to or want to do each day. For example, I won’t write “take a shower” or “make my bed” or “take a walk” or “play with the kids” on my to-do list — so on the days when I feel like I didn’t accomplish anything, It’s helpful to make a new list of all the things I did… things that wouldn’t necessarily be on my regular to-do list.

    Does that make sense?

    [Reply]

    Rachel Reply:

    Yes, absolutely!

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  5. Susie

    01/07/2020

    I keep a calendar beside the couch and when I sit down for a few minutes, I update all the things I have done. This helps with not feeling guilty as I sit for a few short minutes!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    good for you!

    [Reply]

  6. Holly Sanford

    01/07/2020

    I am a huge list maker! My kids make fun of me constantly. I have my planner, I stick post-it notes all over the planner as I go through the day, etc. My kids (college-age) have tried to convince me to switch to putting my to-do lists on my phone but I like writing it out on paper and crossing it out with my favorite colored pens, lol.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    different styles work for different people. I learn (and remember) better if I physically write something down — so I have a feeling I’ll be a list gal forever and ever! Nothing better then crossing off the daily to-dos!

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  7. Jimena

    01/07/2020

    Never!
    I think itยดs a great idea!
    Starting right now ๐Ÿ™‚

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yay — there’s a first time for everything!

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  8. Heather

    01/07/2020

    This past summer I kept track on my calendar of what we did even if it was as simple as going to some garage sales and eating popsicles with the neighbor kids. As a teacher I hate the feeling at the end of the summer of you feel you didn’t do anything. I love keeping track of what we did.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    we did the EXACT same thing! I used my wall calendar to write various things we did every day and then used that to look back on (and it helped me make my digital photo books too!)

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  9. Roxie

    01/07/2020

    I do this from time to time…I’ll have a list to accomplish and feel like I haven’t done anything…so I’ll add what I actually DID to that list and cross it off. You’re right…gives a sense of accomplishment!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh yes, I totally do this too ๐Ÿ™‚
    adding already done things to my list is very rewarding!!

    [Reply]

  10. Allison

    01/07/2020

    Having the kids do it at the end of a school break is a great idea! When they go back to school and the teacher or friends ask what they did over break, they will be prepared to answer instead of saying they did nothing.

    [Reply]

  11. Rhonda

    01/07/2020

    I’m not sure where I heard it (maybe Gretchen Rubin?) – but I like the term “Ta-Da” list. Like, “Ta-Da! This is what I’ve accomplished today.”

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    that’s cool — I like the “ta-da” list ๐Ÿ™‚

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  12. Marsha

    01/07/2020

    I am a retired grandmother now, and although I do not call it a Done List I make a list every day. I include walk, shower, phone calls, emails, and texts that need to be made, and every little thing I do, need to do, or plan to do throughout the day. I taught school for 30 years and raised 2 children. My days are definitely slower paced now and it is easy to procrastinate and not get much done. The list helps keep me focused and by listing pretty much everything I do, I feel more productive…I am more productive!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    thanks for sharing — glad to know this works for different seasons of life as well!

    [Reply]

  13. Shelley

    01/07/2020

    I have never made a โ€œdoneโ€ list but I frequently write things on my daily to do list that I did extra and then cross them right off-lol

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh yeah, we’ve all been there! I do this regularly! ๐Ÿ™‚

    [Reply]

    JJ Reply:

    Me, too!

    [Reply]

  14. Paulette

    01/07/2020

    What a great idea. I need this so much because Iโ€™m kind of โ€œdrivenโ€ to accomplish and some days I look back and wonder what I actually did and I feel so guilty. Turns out, quite a bit if I really think about it! Iโ€™m going to try this, Andrea. Thank you so much!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    it’s such an eye-opening thing to do at the end of a particularly busy day — or whenever you feel like you maybe didn’t get everything accomplished you were hoping to.

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  15. Beth

    03/08/2012

    When my boys were babies, especially after #2, I would often make a “done” list as a more experienced mom had advised. Often this list would include the number of diaper changes, the meals made, fed and cleaned up after, kid activities (books red, coloring done, blocks built), etc. It was really helpful when sleep was at a premium with 2 young little ones to recognize where my time and energy went for the day. The idea behind the advice was to appreciate all the things and time investments that go into your littles. They can be exhausting but so well worth the “investment”. I would even write down “shower” as that usually felt like an accomplishment! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    [Reply]

    Ashley Reply:

    Yes! As mom’s it’s so easy to feel like we did nothing all day when in fact we spent a lot of time and energy tending to and loving our children. I include showing for me on my list too, as well as giving the kids a bath (they don’t bathe every day), cleaning out the dishwasher, laundry…. anything that doesn’t happen every day. Helps me up be realistic with my expectations of my day when I think through all the things I need to do that aren’t “to do list worthy”

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, yes — all worthwhile tasks that could be included on a done list!

    [Reply]

  16. Patty Gardner

    03/07/2012

    I sure have – usually on those days when my plan for the day goes south for the winter. On those days, I feel like I haven’t been productive since I didn’t get the things done on my list but then when I make a list of everything I did, I see that I got a lot done it just wasn’t what I expected to do. Some days are just like that.

    [Reply]

  17. 5 tips to manage your time for the things that really matter | Smart Living Blog

    09/14/2011

    […] If you’re anything like me, your to-do list is enough to make you downright depressed and stressed. So much to accomplish, so little time, and at the end of the week, it seems like you’ve hardly made a dent. Andrea Dekker has a brilliantly simple solution to that feeling of helplessness: Start keeping a “done” list. Whether its meals you’ve made, chores you’ve finished or books you’ve read, get in the habit of writing them down at the end of each day as a kind of mental pick-me-up. Again, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be amazed when you see all that you’ve accomplished! (Simple Organized Living) […]

  18. Zolane

    09/06/2011

    I have…every time I make a to do list (typically every day) I add the “done” items that were completed that morning prior to making my “to dos”. Just gives me that little oomph to start the other projects.

    [Reply]

  19. cassie

    09/03/2011

    I have never made a done list, but this sounds like a great idea!

    [Reply]