to do vs. have done

I looked at my to-do list yesterday night with a sense of dread.  On it were three unchecked items; I hadn’t done any laundry, I didn’t get to church in the morning, and I barely began the week’s assigned graduate reading.  Nevermind that I did have a lovely brunch with my family to celebrate Father’s Day, I did clean the bathrooms and the kitchen floor, I did take the dog out for a walk, and I did celebrate Father’s Day with my husband’s family that evening.

For years I have depended on my to-do lists.  I have insisted to myself that in order to be productive, I need to see the tasks written out, to enjoy the feeling of crossing something off when it is finished, to not worry about what to do next, but to have it planned already.  The problem with my to-do lists lately, though, is that at the end of the day, all I can see is what I did not accomplish.  Maybe that’s motivating for some people; it motivates them to do better tomorrow, to try harder, to use their time more wisely.  It’s done that for me, in the past.

But what it’s done lately is convince me that I’m lazy, that I manage my time poorly, that no matter what I’ll never meet the expectations that I set for myself, that I’m not good enough.  It’s not always I feel that way, but it’s right now, and I realized last night, as I sat there silently berating myself over my unfinished to-do list, that the current system isn’t working.  Instead of helping me, it’s hurting me.  No, I do not want to spend nine hours a day watching Netflix.  But neither do I want to belittle myself and break down my self-worth because I didn’t finish all the laundry.

So I’m switching it up from a to-do list to a have-done list.  Last night I thought this was a completely novel and new and innovative idea I had come up with all by myself.  Then I ran a Google search and realized it’s not a new idea at all, and I’m way behind on the times not thinking of it or hearing of it before.  It’s a good alternative, though, to manage your time, see how you are spending your time, and put the focus on the accomplishment rather than the lack.

Because let’s be real, to celebrate Father’s Day with two different families, clean the bathrooms, clean the kitchen, and still get out to take the dog for a thirty minute walk on a Sunday is not a failure, but rather quite a nice way to start a week.

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