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The ‘Have Done’ List

Have you ever had one of those days when your task list felt a bit like this?

Recently, I’ve noticed that the more I try and organise my life, the longer the ‘to do’ list gets. And the longer the ‘to do’ list gets, the more I look like this: :(.

Although I’ve been doing a lot, the ‘to do’ list is also getting exponentially longer. Which leads me to two questions: 1) Where is it all coming from? and 2) How can I feel sane about this? No, let’s dream big, how can I feel good about it?

Number 1 is a question with many answers, but all we need to know for this post is that it is coming: that’s reality. Number 2, however, can be solved by a wonderous thing, the sister of the ‘to do’ list: the ‘have done’ list.


What is the ‘Have Done’ List?


Pretty much what it says on the box.

If the ‘to do’ list is the green-nosed and warty Wicked Witch of the West, the ‘have done’ list is the good witch in white who sings to the munchkins while surrounded by candy. The ‘to do’ list is an epic overnight study session for that exam you forgot about, the ‘have done’ list is a two-week holiday on the beach afterwards. The ‘to do’ list is war, the ‘have done’ list is peace.

The ‘have done’ list offers a different perspective on productivity and accomplishment: instead of focusing on everything that’s left on the ‘to do’ list, with the ‘have done’ list we can make a list of everything we’ve done as well.

The ‘Have Done’ List Version 2.0

‘Have done’ lists are great for every day use. I always feel much better about the day when I make a ‘have done’ list at the end. It can contain any accomplishment of any size, from ‘getting out of bed’ to ‘getting to work on time’, ‘completing project X’, ‘resisting the lure of cake’ and ‘quitting my job’.

But the ‘have done’ list isn’t just the antithesis to the ‘to do’ list, it can be used on a larger scale too.

I’ve had various income sources drop off over the last couple of months and the little voice that started off by saying ‘eep’ is now saying ‘EEP! EEP! EEP!’.

When it tells me that I should be earning this amount, that there will be dire consequences (yes, dire) if I don’t start earning more, I feel stressed. Because it’s not like I don’t know that, right? Doesn’t this voice think I have what it takes to ride the highs and lows of the self-employed wave?

‘No!’ is the answer.

Time for an injection of self-trust. And not just from anywhere, but from empirical evidence. Otherwise known as the ‘have done’ list version 2.0.

Things are a little slow now, but this is what I have done financially since the beginning of this year:

Paid off my student credit card.
Started saving
Reduced my overdraft

Which all feels lovely. These things were goals for 2010 and I’ve achieved them already. Party!

When I look at my ‘have done’ list, I feel different. It doesn’t change practical reality: I currently still have less income than earlier this year.

But I do have more trust in myself.

And that’s what the ‘have done’ list is all about: trust and confidence in your abilities. It’s not about standing in front of the mirror and saying ‘I am a strong and capable person, and today I will be awesome’, it’s about looking at the facts and being able to say ‘According to this evidence, I am a strong and capable person and I am already being awesome’.

How does your perspective change when you look at situations in terms of ‘have dones’ not ‘to dos’? Tell me in the comments below!

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Photo Credit: Zyan via Compfight cc

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  • Andrew Lightheart
    August 1, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I’ve been experimenting with the Have-Done list for a while. It’s magic for combating the you’ve-done-nothing monster…

    When I listen to my Have Done list as if it were someone else’s (you know, a non-superhero) then I realise how ridiculous my expectations of myself are.

    Very cool. Nice post! :)

    • Hannah
      August 1, 2010 at 11:19 am

      Thanks Andrew! I agree, it’s really helpful for getting some distance when you’re tangled up in the ‘you’ve done nothing’ frame of mind, and taming the inner slave-driver.

  • MarisaO
    August 1, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    That is such a good idea! I’ve never heard of the have-done list. I could see myself staying conscious of how I’m spending my time much better as I look forward to how long I can get my list each night. Great post!

  • Jodi
    August 2, 2010 at 12:12 am

    This is a really good idea! My ‘To Do’ list takes up a whole white board (and not a small one either) and it can be very depressing to see everything I have ahead of me. Having a ‘Have Done’ list sounds like it may help remind me I have been productive, although it won’t take away the things still left ahead. Baby steps, right?!? :)

  • Hannah
    August 12, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    Oh wow, Jodi! Sounds like a have done list might be useful there :) I’ve definitely found it helps me stay more conscious of how productive I’ve been. The more I do it, the more I also become aware of how realistic (or unrealistic!) the goals I set myself are.

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