I am part of a writing forum where some of us create accountability by writing a to do list weekly there and then checking done things daily. Until recently I’ve sort of grudgingly created a list every week. I absolutely love checking things off the list in front of everyone in the group as it were, and I sort of cringe when it becomes obvious no one, even Superwoman herself, can get all the things done I’ve listed. My theory is I need to keep all those things in front of me. It’s been working, but emotionally it’s been, well, let’s just call it a headache.
Recently I’ve made two shifts in my perception of my lists that have made a big positive difference for me.
Celebrate what’s done, rather than what’s not done on my to do list
Wow, the moment it dawned on me I could see my list as a way to celebrate what’s done, instead as a list of what’s not done, I felt transformed. No longer do I feel tyrannized by my to do list. It took some practice, but now I see it clearly as the tool it’s meant to be.
For me, it’s an aid to keeping track of what I need and want to do. Why not see it as a way to honor, however briefly, the stuff I’ve accomplished.
As I work this way I’ve noticed a subtle but important shift in my thinking and my self-talk. I’m much more apt to smile when I get something done where before I’d immediately begin to worry about whatever was next on my list. That’s just not fun!
My celebration is usually simple. For the most part I simply take a moment and acknowledge to myself that I’ve gotten something completed, or completed as much as I can. I might think ‘good job Anne’ or even whisper that to myself. I might reward myself with a fresh cup of coffee or tea, or by petting the Dudley the cat for a few strokes. If I want a break, I might take 10 minutes to read something, or to step outside and appreciate fresh air. Currently I’m teaching myself to skip again, and when I remember I’ll give that a brief go. That’s always good for a giggle and relief that no one is watching.
Now I don’t groan, even to myself when I watch my to do list grow throughout the week, even as I check things off. Nor do I feel guilty, or not very, when only a few things are checked off after what seems like a long day.
This is a fairly easy and effective reframe.
To do list as a list of affirmations
I’ve found that the practice of positive thinking, particularly with affirmations works for me. For example, if I start feeling gloomy for whatever reason, remembering humming birds shifts my mood to the more positive. It’s actually better than that, the little beasts flat spark enjoyment in me even if it’s only a picture of them. You might want to find an icon or idea that sparks joy in you just because and anchor it in so you’ve got access to it whenever you want.
These days I turn my to do list items into a list of short affirmations. For example, today I added “Write an interesting Medium article.” I’ll let you judge if it worked or not. But note, the article is written and published.
Boring items like calling customer support becomes “Have fun and get help from customer support.” That actually works for me most of the time.
I don’t spend much time converting ‘do the wash’ to ‘have fun doing the wash.’ Occasionally I get stuck and if I can’t think of a way to make a positive statement out of whatever I don’t worry about it and move on.
This sort of practice is hard to evaluate but I keep doing it because it feels good. If you try it please let me know how it works for you.
Live well and enjoy,