So many times when I get to the end of my workday, or workweek, I glance shamefully down at my to-do list and feel defeated. Typically, there are still many lines in my notepad filled with tasks that have yet to be crossed off (with my favorite red pen). And yes, I know I should be keeping my lists electronically by now, but I actually enjoy the process of sitting down and creating them fresh every morning.
Lately though, I’ve really been struggling with my to-do lists. The logic still makes sense–they are meant to keep you on track and focused on your highest priorities. But in a high-demand job, they often end up making you feel like a failure.
My own lists are typically very long (two pages) and very intense. The individual tasks aren’t easy either; often my list includes lines such as “secure a national media hit” or “draft marketing and communication plan for client.” Sure, I could lob myself some softballs, but then my list wouldn’t be an accurate reflection of my responsibilities at my job, would it? So, another day rolls by and I wonder again why I wasn’t able to get ALL my work done—vowing to do better next time!
During a check-in in with my company President a few weeks back, I made mention of this issue and wondered aloud if there would ever be enough hours in the day to get all of this work done. I wasn’t complaining, and she knew it; I was just really feeling it. Seeing that I was being incredibly hard on myself, she did what great managers do—she opened my eyes to the bigger picture.
My boss quickly rattled off a long list of tasks I have completed lately—all of which were pretty massive in scope and had impacted my organization in a very positive way. She made mention of the many national and regional media hits I had already landed over the past several months, not to mention the complete website rebuild and redesign I managed, the new brand standards my team created and the development of a new brand positioning platform for my organization. Then she added in the three new hires I had brought into the organization and onboarded over the past several months.
By the time she was done, I was smiling ear-to-ear. My shoulders were relaxed and I walked out of her office tall and confident. It was a refreshing moment—to hear my boss focus on what I had accomplished and not solely on what was left to do. It reminded me that we often get so caught up in our daily tasks that we forget to stop and appreciate the good work being done.
Starting the very next day, I began a new document alongside my trusty to-do list. I call it my DONE IT list. It’s where I quickly jot down all my major accomplishments over the past several weeks. Now, every Friday—I end the day with my DONE IT list. I’ve already found that when I end my week by reflecting on the impact my team and I have made, which often extends far beyond my department—I come back inspired and ready to do more.
My DONE IT list has also given me additional opportunities to recognize those I manage. Very rarely is there an accomplishment written on my now powerfully positive list that didn’t entail the work of my team. I now make notes in their review files and add reminders to tell them how much I appreciate their hard work on my regular to-do list for the day.
So give it a try! Make your own DONE IT list once a week, or even once a month. Take a moment to step away from the daily grind and give yourself the opportunity to reflect on all the good you are already doing.