The Power of a ‘Have Done List’

A ‘to do list’ v. a ‘have done list’

You know what a ‘to do list’ is, right? Well, a ‘have done list’ is a similar concept but instead of writing down what you’re going to do, you write down what you did do. A ‘to do list’ may well be intentionally ambitious – you may have captured everything you need to do whether you’re likely to get to it or not. A ‘to do list’ may also be rather mundane. This sort of thing, written on the back of an envelope: Book haircut, phone Fred, buy spaghetti, don’t forget Scooby’s flea treatment.  A ‘to do list’ could also be a master plan, organised by categories, such as home improvements, work, school, health, life admin, which you draw from everyday. A ‘have done list’ is more personal than that, and more reflective. By the way, Michael Hyatt has written a blog about ‘Not to Do Lists’ – a different thing, but also a useful tool – check it out here.

So what is a ‘have done list’?

A ‘have done list’ is more authentic because it’s a record of what you actually did on a given day, written on the day you did it. You don’t judge or evaluate while you write it, or relate it to what you actually wanted to do. You simply write down what you did.

Two insights

I recently wrote a ‘have done list’ at the end of a day when I didn’t think I had been particularly productive. I wrote about it on my author blog here. Turns out I did an awful lot of stuff. My problem wasn’t productivity. In fact, I was acting like Super Mum. But it did give me two insights:

1) I got a dose of self-awareness and a confidence boost – without writing my ‘have done’ list I would not have known how much I had done that day. I mean, I was wildly out of touch with how much I had done.

2) The ‘have done list’ allowed me to figure out if I was working on stuff that I really wanted to be working on, or getting busy, trying to multi-task, but not actually making progress finding time to do the stuff I love.

Perspective time

I still struggle to schedule perspective time each day, but I see it as an ongoing project, so have decided to let myself off the hook. Perspective time is simply time at the start and end of each day 1) where you figure out what you’re going to work towards, but with the big picture in mind, and 2) where you record where you’re up to at the end of a work session, and note down any questions so you can pick up where you left off, or so you know the next step.

Avoid distractions and get more time to do the stuff you love

Doing these two things every day help enormously with distractions and increase your ability to find time to do the stuff you love. If I were a productivity guru I guess I’d say that these two things will quadruple your efficiency in a week, or similar, but I have no evidence for that. I do know that I feel more grounded when I have perspective time in my life.

How to write a ‘have done list’

A ‘have done list’ – which you can free write, or write as a list, or a blog – is a quick way to get some perspective without having to spend an enormous amount of time doing it. As you can see from the one I did, it’s done as freewriting, it’s a list, and I haven’t edited it much. I didn’t have to because I did it for me, as a way of capturing information. The next step is harder, and requires focus and effort – that’s when you compare your ‘have done list’ with the steps you’ve already decided to take towards finding time to do the stuff you love.


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