Forget ‘to do’ lists – The magic is the ‘to done’ list

Many people are intimidated by their ‘to do’ lists and find it hard to get going.  A recent article by Paula Morand reminded me of a powerful strategy for ramping up motivation – the ‘to done’ list.  While it may not be grammatically correct, it works wonders.

In her article Paula highlights two strategies for getting through ‘to do’ lists – breaking big tasks down and visualizing the task as being done.  Both work well – the second is incredibly powerful.

The reason why is simple – our brains work in pictures.  Words are just the surface level, and they shape the picture.

If I was to ask you how many chairs are in your home, how would you get the answer?  You’d visualize your home and walk through in your mind’s eye.  Even people who think they can’t visualize do this.

When you create a ‘to do’ list, what’s the picture you create?  You make a picture of all the work you have yet to do, and for most, that’s demotivating and can suck your energy away.  If you wanted to clean your office, you would write ‘clean office’ on your to-do list, and guess what picture you’d create? Your messy office.  And for most people that’s about as motivating as going for a root canal.

One of the tools I teach my coaching clients is to visualize the end goal – having completed the task – and using words that create those pictures. So instead of writing ‘clean office’ down, you’d write down ‘I have a clean office’. Guess what picture your mind creates from this?  A clean office, which is way more motivating because you want to get there.

A couple of years ago one of my clients started applying this technique for goals to his whole ‘to do’ list, and he started calling it the ‘to done’ list, and got his whole office using it – and they all immediately saw the impact it had.

That simple change is hugely powerful, and, with his permission, I now use that same term and love the results I get and the feedback I get from my clients who use it.

Try it out.  You’ll be amazed how much more quickly you get through your list.

About the Author Ravi Tangri

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