Year End Is Perfect Time to Swap Your “To-Do” List For a “Done” List

Year End Is Perfect Time to Swap Your “To-Do” List For a “Done” ListLike the proverbial tree falling silently in the forest, if you accomplish something of value but never take the time to recognize it yourself, or share the win with others, did it really happen?

Learning how to “spot your success” is a critical skill not only for helping others appreciate your value and know that you are ready for more, but it can help you gain an important sense of meaning and control.

A “To-Do List” is mercilessly reborn every day with no chance of ever being declared complete. But a “Done List” lets you actually see progress made, milestones reached, new experiences you’ve had and things you’ve learned. You can use all of that information to share your growth with a supervisor or investors, but you can also use it to increase your sense of personal satisfaction and to better connect your efforts to results.

Spot the success

Intentionally directing time and attention to capturing things you’ve accomplished is more about appreciation than evaluation. The focus isn’t on judging whether the effort should be awarded a grade of A or C, but rather on cultivating a sense of gratitude for each positive action taken. When you look back on a year (or even a week or month) you may be surprised how much you’ve moved the ball down the field, even if it’s not between the goal posts yet, and how much you’ve supported others in their efforts too.

Learning to spot your accomplishments and tie time and effort to emerging results and learning, rather than focusing strictly on big outcomes, can actually help you get even more done. The feelings of encouragement and momentum it builds can inspire you to keep going. You may also gain valuable insights into what sorts of activities and approaches have been most rewarding.

Reappraisal and renewal

Focusing on what you’ve accomplished (rather than only on what’s left to do) reflects a technique psychologists endorse called cognitive reappraisal. The approach helps you reframe events and experiences to see them in a new light. Even just the process of considering other interpretations of a situation can generate more positive feelings.

The purpose is not to gloss over challenges, see the world through rose-colored glasses or even to inundate yourself with positive thinking. Rather, you scan the situation for reality-based ways of reappraising it. For example, by focusing only on your growing weekly task list you might feel overwhelmed, unsure what to do first or even become frozen. Looking instead at all the things you’ve already completed can spur you to ongoing action.

Looking at how much progress you’ve made on a project or even how many customers you served while short-handed last week, how many times you got dinner on the table for your family or the ways you stepped in to help colleagues at the last minute can empower you with a sense of agency and awareness of your ability to accomplish things — even if not everything.

Mastering this skill can help you gain greater perspective in challenging situations, see that two things can be true at the same time (yes, your to-do list is too long but look how far you’ve come!) and is linked to lower levels of stress and depression.

Big and small  

A year-end “Done List” can form the basis of a Summary of Accomplishments (SOA) you might share later with your boss in an annual performance review or with key stakeholders as you discuss progress in your business. But don’t turn it into a huge task itself. And remember the little things. Going for a walk, attending a Lunch and Learn or texting a friend can feel inconsequential, but each action is beneficial and creates ripples.

Start with a free-writing process where you jot things down quickly and without filtering. Sit quietly for a minute and think about your typical day, how it starts at home, how it unfolds over the next eight-plus hours and how it concludes at the end of the day. When you recognize how much goes into running a business day-in-and-day-out or what it takes to be part of a company team, as well as when you leant an understanding ear, mentored a junior colleague, served on a professional committee, volunteered in your community or called your mother, you see accomplishments big and small and see yourself as the catalyst that made them happen.

It’s almost time to toast a new year. The year 2022 may have been filled with growth and good news; it may have been a particularly trying time. Either way, you took action personally and professionally to move along your path and closer to your always-evolving goals. If 2023 threatens to overwhelm with new challenges and opportunities, pull out your Done List and look at all that proof that you are someone who makes things happen.