I started out the day with ten things on my daily docket. As I write this, only three were accomplished, and whether they were the top three items is subject to debate. I have to say that in this phase of my life, more often than not my days are filled with unplanned incidents, accidental happenings, and unforseen circumstances. Because I have perfectionist tendencies, getting to the end of a day with my To Do list left undone makes me feel stressed out and overwhelmed. I’m tempted to get discouraged and call the day wasted.
When that happens, I find it helpful to toss the To Do List and make up a Have Done List. A Have Done List is just what it sounds like – a list of things you DID do that day. When you start listing them, you’ll probably be surprised at how much you accomplished, and what value those things had.
- A Have Done List helps me re-evaluate my priorities and schedule. Sometimes a string of days where I have to leave the To Do List in favor of other things shows me an area where I need to shift my focus or change around the order of my days. This is especially important in areas of life where your activities depend on someone else’s actions or needs (such as parenting small children or working under quick deadlines at your job).
- Keeping a Have Done List on overwhelming days also helps me have the momentum to keep going at tasks. I believe it was Elisabeth Elliot who said the key to home management was “just do the next thing.” If she didn’t say that, someone should have, because it’s right on. I get immobilized when I’m feeling dogpiled by tasks, but if I can see that I have been getting things done, it gives me energy to tackle the next thing.
- A Have Done List keeps me from beating myself up. In my stage of life, things that take me away from the To Do List are usually related to a small child with a big need. It’s WAY more important to comfort or help or teach my child than to get my floor mopped on the assigned day. With three little kids around, cleaning ALWAYS happens EVERY day by necessity, but I might wind up having to skip “mop kitchen” in favor of “scrub vomit out of carpet”. It happens. If I focus on what I did accomplish, rather than bemoaning what I didn’t get done, it minimizes my frustration.
I don’t know if the Have Done List idea would be helpful to you if you are a relaxed Zen type person, but if you’re Type A and To Do List driven like I am, it might be worth a try. It’s not something I do every day, but every now and then it’s really helpful.
When you feel overwhelmed by your undone To Do List, how do you handle it?