The Anti To-Do List? Count Me In!

The Anti To-Do List? Count Me In!

Ugh. The proverbial to-do list. With the chaos of winter holidays underway, you may be feeling the weight of responsibility now more than ever. If this is how you're feeling, you are not alone.

Like many of you, I am the one who typically takes on the mental load of organizing our busy family and personal life. This means I’m the list maker, organizer, and tender to ALL things that need to be kept track of and managed. List after list, my journals are overflowing. But after almost 14 years of parenthood, this is what works for our family. 

Further to this, I run a business with a small team, managing and organizing that to-do list as well. Since it’s a small business, I do not have the luxury of having someone in each department that I can offload tasks to then check in on for progress reports. For the parts of the company that I DO have help with, either in-house or on a consultant basis, this is the way it runs and it’s heavenly!

But for everything else, there’s just me. Is it the same for you? *hugs* 



To ease the mental load and free up some time, I tried several different types of planners, both digital and analog. I remember one friend suggesting Google Calendar, saying that it saved her friend's marriage…LOL. I tried it out but just couldn’t get used to everything being digital. I like to write things down and I’m on screens enough, so back to analog I went.

I’ve tried iCal, Google Docs and Trello -- anything to try and help manage what seems like the never-ending to-do list that runs my life. But I loathe it.

“ENOUGH”, I say. 

How about a new spin on things as we head into the holidays and the new year?  Yes, we have all the things to do, the places to go, the gifts to deal with, the get-togethers to squeeze in...  But I like the idea of turning things around a little and viewing things from a different perspective. 



Basically, the ‘Anti To-Do list’ is a list of all the things you did in a day that might not have originally been on your to-do list. It’s a DONE list, instead of TO-DO list.

This whole idea stemmed from Marc Andreessen, who is also the founder of Netscape, Opsware, Ning and Andressen Horowitz. His suggestion is to record your ‘Anti To-Do list’ on the back of a 3x5 index card, and on the other side list the 3 big picture items you’d like to get done during that day. 

“Andreessen says, “I love this technique -- being able to put more notches on my accomplishment belt, so to speak, by writing down things on my Anti-ToDo list as I accomplish them throughout the day makes me feel marvellously productive and efficient. Far more so than if I just did those things and didn't write them down.” 

Human Unlimited, The Anti To-Do List, by Rocky Lewis 



Our time is our most valuable commodity, so when you reach the end of the day and you look at your standard ‘To Do’ list, most times you get a negative feeling from all the things you didn’t get to. You are left feeling anxious, and not feeling particularly productive. Time for a switchy-change.

“Unfortunately, this situation is all too familiar to most of us. Yes, in some cases, writing your to-dos down is great for keeping you on track. But, there are also far too many times when it only serves to make you feel plain ol’ crappy. Even if you put in a solid day’s work, you’re forced to focus on all of the things that you didn’t manage to get done—and you completely forget about anything you actually did get accomplished (particularly if it wasn’t on your calendar to begin with!).” 
The Muse, I Actually Tried the Anti To-Do List’ and I didn’t Hate It, by Kat Googaard.



The Anti To-Do list is very similar to a gratitude list! You’re switching that internal feeling and response to the same information – how your day went.  You’ve gone from the negative – “I can’t believe how much I didn’t get done today”, to the positive – ‘Look at everything I did today with the time I was awake.’

“Gratitude journaling works because it slowly changes the way we perceive situations by adjusting what we focus on. While you might always be thankful for your great family, just writing “I’m grateful for my family” week after week doesn’t keep your brain on alert for fresh grateful moments. Get specific by writing “Today my husband gave me a shoulder rub when he knew I was really stressed” or "My sister invited me over for dinner, so I didn't have to cook after a long day." And be sure to stretch yourself beyond the great stuff right in front of you. Opening your eyes to more of the world around you can deeply enhance your gratitude practice.“
The Upside, The Science Behind Gratitude, by Derrick Carpenter, MAPP



Okay, so I’m getting the idea now and this is beginning to sound very interesting to me. How about you?

I like the idea of reducing the anxiety and shame I sometimes feel for not getting through the to-do list that I try and tackle at the beginning of each day.  I completely connect with the science behind this - changing my mindset by making a small change.

Writing out all the ‘done things’ and when I’m starting to get that nagging ‘I’ve done nothing today – look at my massive to-do list!’ anxious feeling, I review my ‘done list’ for the week and start to feel that shift.  I can see how this would potentially save me from going down that rabbit hole in the future and wasting energy on those spiralling thoughts that creep in when I feel, ‘What have done today? Where has all the time gone?’.

“My approach with the Anti-To-Do List is to have not just a single list each day, as many of us do now (our to-do list), but to have two. The idea of the Anti-To-Do List is that it is the account of progress for that day. In some ways, it’s a “Done” List. This is really powerful, because you can always look back at your Anti-To-Do List and see how much you’ve got done (even if the items weren’t on your to-do list).” 
Fast Company, Why an Anti To-Do List Might Be The Secret to Productivity, Joel Gascoigne



How about this holiday season, you try The Anti To-Do List out? I know you still have the ‘have to do’ stuff, but you also have all those moments in between, filled with your friends and family, or by yourself reading a book, or with your pets going for a walk outside. Focus on the little things and all that you've accomplished... even if that was just you getting out of bed that day and making breakfast. 

New year. New list. Less pressure. Better mental health.

Try this switch and let me know if it works for you!

By Jennifer St John