Health Advocate Blog

Why you should keep a Done List

You’ve likely heard of to-do lists before. But have you ever heard of a Done List?

While a to-do list outlines all the things you need to do, a Done List outlines all the things you’ve done. To-do lists tend to get all the love when it comes to productivity, but there’s a darker side to them: Sometimes they can bring us down, especially if day after day we keep seeing a list of all the things we haven’t gotten done yet. It can feel demotivating to keep facing a never-ending list of “shoulds” and “have tos.”

Enter the Done List, which can have the opposite effect: Helping you feel proud of your achievements. It’s also a good thing to look back at days, weeks, or months later, as a record of all that you’ve accomplished over time. Often we are so focused on all that we have to do that we forget about all that we have actually done, and a Done List can help you remember and feel good about it!

Other advantages of keeping a Done List include:

  • It’s a record of when you’ve done things, in case you ever forget whether a task got done or not, or you need to find the date on which it was done
  • It can help promote confidence. For many people, their internal critic (you know, that mean little voice in your head) tells them they’re not doing enough. But when you look back at your Done List and see everything you’ve accomplished, now you have proof that your inner critical voice is inaccurate!

What can you put on your Done List?

  • Work projects you completed
  • Household chores you did
  • Errands you ran
  • Accomplishments and milestones that you achieved
  • Activities and tasks that are related to your goals—for example, finishing a book (when you have a goal of reading X books in a year), or spending $0 that day (if you are trying to rein in impulse buying).

Is anything too simple to put on a Done List?

It’s really up to you, and depends on your unique situation and goals. Everyone is different, and different levels of detail on a Done List may help different types of people.

For instance, for someone who has clinical depression, putting “took a shower” on their Done List may mark an achievement that is truly significant for them. But for others for whom this is not a struggle, that may feel like too simple of an activity to include.

Or someone with ADHD may include “arrived at work on time today,” or include the milestone “arrived at work on time every day this week” because it is a goal they are working toward and it helps them feel good to see their progress. Similarly, a new parent might include “got 6 hours of sleep last night” both as a way to track their sleep health as well as a way to chart progress toward getting better sleep as they adjust to the “new normal” of caring for a baby.

For people for whom those types of things are not issues or goals, it may not be necessary to include those things on the Done List.

Where can you keep your Done List?

  • In a physical notebook
  • In a file on your computer, such as a Word document
  • In the Notes app of your phone

Choose whichever format best suits your needs and feels most right for you!

If you are someone who is helped by to-do lists, you can also turn your Done List into a checklist for the day, which can help you remember important things to do and help you stay on task and be productive:

  • List the things you need to do today
  • Cross them off once you accomplish them
  • Shift any unfinished tasks to the next day’s list

And if you prefer to keep your work life and home life goals and achievements separate, you can always keep two Done Lists—one for work, and one for everything else.

We’ve given you the basics on how to start your Done List. Now it’s up to you to figure out your particular style of Done List and begin recording, and feeling proud of, what you’ve achieved! And it’s totally okay to have your first task be “Started my Done List”—go ahead and cross it off! Feels good, doesn’t it?