What’s on Your “Done” List or How Do You Recognize Your Accomplishments?

Do you keep lists of work to do? If you’re like me, you have the work-list, the home/personal list, and the honey-do list. (The honey-do list is for my honey (husband) to please do.)

I also have a potential list, which I don’t pay much attention to. I purposely do not call this a backlog. I’m not guaranteeing I’ll get to anything on the potential list. It’s just a list of things I might want to do at some point in the future. Potential projects or deliverables.

I do try to keep the work, home, and honey lists small, so I can finish them. The more work I feel I have to address, the larger my cognitive load. The larger that load, the less work I finish. Mostly because the cognitive load paralyzes me.

That’s how I manage my appetite for more work. However, there’s another way: the done list.

The done list is your list of accomplishments from a certain date. I keep a done list by calendar year, and I update it every six months. (See How Often Do You Choose to Reset or Readjust?)

I started keeping a done list when I had to fill out timecards. While my managers wanted to know what I worked on. However, the impact of what I did? That was my done list. My done list was surprisingly useful.

The Value of a Done List

My done list helped me articulate:

  • Choices I had made about what not to do. That helped my managers understand why multitasking was nuts.
  • My accomplishments, so we could discuss where I had trouble and what work flowed.
  • How we, as an organization, chose what to do and not do. (Yes, even as a more senior person and then as a manager.)

I also found my done list helpful for all the performance management nonsense. About a month before my review, I sent an email to my manager asking when the manager wanted my list of accomplishments.

As a manager, I could send the people I led and served my list and ask, “Did I miss any of your accomplishments?”

That’s because we tend to remember the recent, not something from a year ago.

Now, as my own manager, I can see what I’ve accomplished at almost any time throughout the year. And when we have years like these past two years, where many of us feel as if we’re running just to keep up, we can see what we’ve done.

Let me go meta. There’s an even better reason to keep a done list: to decide when to celebrate your accomplishments.

Done Can Create a Time to Celebrate

How often do you celebrate your accomplishments? If you can’t see your accomplishments, you can’t celebrate them.

Too often, we focus our retrospectives on what didn’t finish or problems we want to solve in the future. Instead, what can you celebrate?

Note: If you ship or finish something small every day, you can celebrate every single day. You might only raise your cup of coffee when you see your team, but the more often you acknowledge your accomplishments, the more likely you are to create small “done”s.

I feel as if I give myself a little present when I acknowledge my done list.

So my dear readers, the question this week is: What’s on your “done” list or how do you recognize your accomplishments?

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