Checked Off: Five Reasons a “Got Done” List is Important

“Happiness does not come from doing easy work, but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.” – Theodore Isaac Rubin, American psychiatrist and author.

We all love to feel like winners, which may be why the new app “I Done This” has become popular recently. Rather than acting just as an electronic to-do list, it also emphasizes what you’ve already accomplished. This is especially effective on the team level, where it demonstrates the truth of the “many hands make light work” axiom and keeps teammates from accidentally doubling up on the same task.

Many workers tend to overestimate what they can do during a work-day, so they make much longer daily to-do lists than they should. This can damage your productivity in an unexpected way: If you look only at your long to-to list, it can make you feel stressed or like a failure when you don’t check it all off. It makes no sense to have 17 hours of work lined up for a day with 4 hours of controllable time. That’s why it’s crucial to have a “Got Done” list as well.

Now, a Got Done list isn’t as simple as the items you’ve checked or crossed off your list. Not only do many of the popular apps disappear those from your list once you’ve checked them off them, forcing you to look for your activity log, what you’ve checked off doesn’t necessarily include all you’ve actually done. What about the unexpected stuff that pops up and doesn’t make the list, or the tasks you’ve helped your coworkers finish?

You get a richer experience if you can reflect on all you’ve done, especially at the end of the day, the week, or even a particular project, than if you just angst over what’s left to do. Even better, your actual productivity level becomes more obvious to you. Here are a few good reasons you should keep a separate Got Done list:

  1. It helps you focus on your progress rather than what you still have to do. Half of the items on to-do lists don’t get done anyway—maybe because they were “want-to-dos” rather than “must dos.” And that’s fine; sometimes you get the extra time you want, sometimes you don’t. But with a Got Done list, you can see the extent of the valuable work you’ve completed.

  2. It’s harder to game than to-do lists. Every time you check something off your to-do list, you feel a sense of accomplishment. This can become addictive, causing you to focus on completing lots of smaller tasks, instead of the big ones that take more time but provide greater benefit. Therefore, many of us add unexpected tasks we’ve just completed to our to-do lists, just so we can check them off: it makes us feel productive. But a Got Done list is more appropriate, more honest, and thus more effective.

  3. It’s educational. Just because you finished something, whether it was on your to-do list or not, doesn’t mean it was important. With a Got Done list, you can easily determine how productive you truly are—not just how busy you’ve kept yourself. If you’re not as productive as you like, or see you you’ve misdirected your energies, you know what to do instead next time.

  4. It provides an accurate sense of accomplishment. While checking something off a to-do list feels good, seeing the same item on the Got Done list feels better—especially when the task was a substantial one. As such, a Got Done list can prove inspirational, motivating you to keep up the good work, to do even better, and to accomplish more.

  5. It aids your memory and helps establish routines. When you create a Got Done list, it’s easy to go back and think about what you’ve done. This helps you remember the repetitive tasks that should go on your next to-do list. How many times have you gotten toward the end of your list, only to remember, “Darn! I forgot to put the XYZ report on my to-do list today!” You’re left with the choice of skipping it and doubling down on it tomorrow or trying to shoehorn it into the time you have left today. Rather than depend on your memory, regularly check your previous Got Done lists for items to put on your to-do lists. Soon, it’ll become part of your routine.

Get It Down

A Got Done list needn’t take long, and you don’t have to use an app to track your Got Done’s. I used the “Completed” view on my Outlook tasks to generate it. “Retro tech” like pen and paper will also suffice if that’s your thing. A journal or notebook will allow you to can go back and review all the things you’ve accomplished in the past, even years ago. This may be exactly the shot-in-the-arm you need on a day when you’re feeling unproductive!

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

© 2019 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored eight books, including FASTER TOGETHER: Accelerating Your Team’s Productivity (Berrett-Koehler 2018). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and a member of its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at an upcoming meeting or event, call 303-471-7401 or contact us online.

Here’s what others are saying:

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
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