Monday, September 1, 2014

To-Do or Anti-To-Do (Lists that is!)

We are all very familiar with the concept of the ubiquitous To-Do list.  This is a standard part of any work-day, the recording of those must-do items for the day.  Although its primary purpose is to keep us on track, to provide us with a constant reminder of what we hope to accomplish during the day, it also serves as a reinforcement tool.  That small rush of pleasure we receive when we cross an item off our list, the surge of joy we feel when we actually manage to complete everything before day's end all contribute to our feeling of productivity and accomplishment.

However, the reverse is also true.  When our day has finished long before our list is completed we can experience a sense of frustration and label the day unproductive.  Too many of those days can lead us to feeling as though we are unsuccessful, that we will never reach that big goal or fulfill that dream.  This is where the Anti-To-Do list steps in.  Unlike your To-Do list, which is built at the start of your day detailing all that you want/need/intend to accomplish, the Anti-To-Do list is built over the course of the day, serving as a record of everything that you DO accomplish.

The Anti-To-Do list is a tool used by the likes of Marc Andreessen, founder of Netscape, Opsware, Ning and Andreessen Horowitz, a guy who knows how to get things done.  He uses the Anti-To-Do list to prevent his falling into the trap of not feeling productive at the end of the day.  The Anti-To-Do list reflects everything that he did manage to complete, even though it might not be everything that was on his To-Do list.
Most ambitious people tend to determine their success by measuring their progress towards the achievement of their goals.  Their daily To-Do list is a big part of this process, helping to outline steps that must be taken that day toward achieving those goals.  But, we do many things each day that are NOT on that list and that therefore get overlooked as a result.  Leaving things uncrossed by the end of the day can cause us to feel frustrated and demoralized, which can stall our forward momentum.  However, we can balance this off by then looking at our Anti-To-Do list, upon which we recorded anything useful that we did over the course of the day.  We are able to see that we actually accomplished many more things than we were previously giving ourselves credit for, helping us to see our capability and contribution.

The Anti-To-Do list can actually help us to feel more productive, by highlighting just how much we actually got done each day.  The more productive we feel the more productive we'll be.  There are some additional benefits to the Anti-To-Do list though, that may not be immediately apparent.  Maintaining a list of all the useful things you accomplish each day may also serve to point out where you consistently keep getting pulled off track from completing your To-Do list.  You may be helping others out, but if you are continuously completing tasks for someone else, you may find that they are the reason you are not getting more done on your list... you're busy crossing things off of theirs!

The To-Do list, though a helpful productivity tool, has become an unconsciously powerful measure of our success.  Using the Anti-To-Do list helps us to broaden our perspective on what constitutes progress toward the big goal of 'success', and is therefore a key factor in helping to build momentum toward its achievement. Mindset is everything; the more productive we feel, the more productive we will be.  Giving ourselves credit for everything we accomplish each day, not just what we have managed to cross off our To-Do list, may prove to be the motivational tool needed to get more crossed off our To-Do list!

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