Check That Progress

To-do lists are my saving grace. I love them. I keep them, work them, check them off and grin. Occasionally, I am guilty of putting things on my to-do list that I have already done, just so I can check it off and feel like I’ve started doing something.

strugglequoteThe trouble with that, of course, is you are never satisfied, always living in the next step, and striving ahead without a break. It’s exhausting. And I still love them.

Which is why I started a to-don’t list, often before I travel, so give myself permission to put some work on hold so I can actually live in the present and do the work at hand–traveling.

Now I’ve come up with something almost as fun as a to-do list: a “it’s done” list. Research shows that a real boost to meaningful work is keeping track of progress. What went right. What you did that was smart. What worked well. Most of us don’t do that. If things work out, we just keep going. There’s no learning in that.

True, I learn a lot by making mistakes. The reason? When things go right, I just workInProgress-150x150breeze ahead. When I stumble and fall, I have to figure out what went wrong, how it went wrong and how to notice it early enough next time not to do it again.

Imagine if you did that for getting it right. Progress is an important step in meaning-making. Knowing you have made progress and admitting it, even taking satisfaction in it, is another thing entirely. Give yourself a break. Allow yourself to keep track of what went right. Your good decisions. Your progress. See if more of them don’t start showing up.

—Quinn McDonald is moving forward on several projects.



14 thoughts on “Check That Progress

  1. I love crossing things off a TO DO list and my lists have some commonalities.
    1, the more I don’t want to do the task the more steps it has.
    2. if there are tasks leading up to doing something I don’t want to do but need to, they go on the list as well.
    3. the more unpleasant the (necessary) task, the bolder the line that crosses it off.
    4. reward activities are sometimes built into a sequential list around these unpleasant tasks.
    5. if a list contains only preferred activities, it it not approached in a sequential manner.
    6. not all lists are written . . . and they’re the ones that can get out of hand. These are the ones that would benefit from an evening DONE list being composed . . . I love the idea.

    Of course their are other lists, checklists so I don’t miss a step, long and short term lists of goals, gratitude lists (usually composed on a down-day) and grocery lists which are usually left at home but have been memorised with a mnemonic or ‘fixed’ with a visual image . . . it’s a game I play with myself.

    Maybe I need help?

  2. I had to double check I wasn´t at my own blog as the first paragraph sounded soooooo like me.
    I´m checking things off in different colours each day as I tend to overschedule and that shows me in the planner how much time it actually took me to do the work.

  3. Thanks for this. It came at a perfect time for me. I am going to share this with a co-worker who I think will also benefit from it. We both are pretty good at making the ‘to-do’ list but the other lists would be good for us to note as well.

  4. I love the idea of a ‘things done’ list. A while ago I started a ‘things to do’ book so that all the pieces of paper didn’t get lost, in fact I’m on my second book now, which makes me realise how much of a list person I am. I threw the old book away when it was full, but I now realise that actually looking back through the crossed off lists makes them into ‘things I got done’ (or didn’t need to do after all?!) lists. So the next book, when it’s full, will become my ‘things I’ve done’ book.
    Thanks for sharing all your wonderful insights. I shared the Gratitude Journal page on facebook, and it was well liked and shared by my friends.

  5. I too love my to-do lists and have also been guilty of adding things to them just so I could check them off. A done list, I’ll give it a try! Sounds like a positive affirmation! Once again Quinn, thanks for another great idea & this one won’t require a trip to the art store or an amazon order! Lol Have a great weekend.

  6. I haven’t commented recently but avidly read each post! I love them. Very good today as my aim this week has been to go through the back up of papers that seem to pile up ….my saving grace are my to do lists,they organize my brain ,stop me forgetting everything,help me prioritize,make me feel like I am ” on it ” and I do like the satisfaction of ticking things off. I tend to do one each morning. Before I read today’s post I decided today I need a new notebook,specifically for my daily lists as the scraps of paper were getting on my nerves! This week I have found old lists and had great joy in ticking off some of the major things on them that were goals for this year. It made me realize how much I had moved on. Look at prices for tickets to India at Xmas was on one from months ago..and now it’s al booked six months later and I only have few weeks before I go.that trip itself has it’s own list, vaccinations,visa application and insurance and organizing 40 kg of kids clothes to take to orpanage.
    I have made a work in progress file of admin..where I have done all i can to get to a certain point and have to await things from govt depts etc…allows me freedom from that area. Kids files for school stuff,bank,car and so it goes on and on. …your tips for chucking catalouges and cut outs from mags useful if you not used was brilliant….once it’s gone you don’t miss it. Point being that a clear head and space gives you room to be creative without the perilhal stuff nagging at you. The do to list is never ending….sometimes that takes some deep breathes….but it means we are busy and moving on day by day….once it was a whole pad of A4 .. I got it down to a page now….perhaps that’s getting older! Very small writing though! I thought I was a bit mad with my lists but we are of course normal! Nice one Quinn! X

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