Make Your To-Do List a Ta-Da List

If you’re a procrastinator like I am, you might find To-Do lists pretty annoying. I mean, they stare at you just daring you to cross one off just one item. And you stare back like, yeah, I’ve got all day to complete that list. I’m good at what I do. I’m quicker than most people, so I’ve got plenty of time.

Plus, there’s all this other cool stuff I could be doing that I’ll never remember to do if stick to my list, and then those ideas will be gone forever. So, it makes perfect sense that so many of us procrastinate on tasks we have to complete on any given day. We’re optimistic, we’re creative, we’re damn smart. We’ve got this handled.

Except that many days, we don’t.

Though we are damn smart and super creative, we’re overly optimistic and we lose track of time. And before we know it, we have found that we have not completed our To-Do list. Ugh.

So what can we do about it?

Well, before we get into the strategies and tactics, we need to understand that there are different kinds of procrastinators. In fact, there are four types. See if you are one of the following: the Performer, the Self-Deprecator, the Overbooker, the Novelty Seeker.

The Performer says: “I work best under pressure.”

These procrastinators actually create the problem they’ve just stated. They tend to be perfectionists, waiting for just the right time, having enough data, being in the right mood. This squeezes everything into a smaller time space.

The challenge is: Getting Started.

The solution is: Instead of setting a due date, set a start date for tasks projects, and goals. Once you get started, you’ll not find yourself in crunch time so much.

The Self-Deprecator says: “I’m so lazy right now.”

This procrastinator is not lazy at all. They tend to be worn out from doing so much and when they find themselves with not a lot to do, they see themselves as lazy or lethargic.

The challenge: Taking a break.

The solution: Relax and recharge. Go for a walk to get your mind off of your projects for a bit. Take a few minutes of downtime to simply let things go, gain a new perspective, and get back at it.

The Overbooker says: “I’m so busy.”

These procrastinators love to fill up their calendars. When the book is full, they feel validated.

The challenge: Addressing important or urgent situations.

The solution: Take a moment for introspection. Ask yourself, “What am I really avoiding?” “What do I really want to achieve?” “What is my true purpose or passion?”

The Novelty Seeker says: “I just had the best idea!”

This procrastinator is victim to shiny object syndrome. They constantly seek new ideas, start new projects, but soon get bored of them and fall behind or just abandon the task altogether.

The challenge: Completing things.

The solution: Write stuff down. When a new idea strikes, jot it down on a sticky note or a notebook. The trick here is to satisfy your brain by capturing you great idea on paper, but not acting on it until you’ve finished your current task.

So, figure out which procrastinator you are and try to follow the guidance provided. It won’t be easy, but it can be effective in keeping on track and in progressive motion.

No matter which procrastinator you are, there is a tactic that works for everyone, and that   is to create a To-Do list and then a Ta-Da list.

I know, it sounds silly, but hear me out.

Each time we create a To-Do list, we set up a plan to be successful that day. That is an excellent idea. Keep doing that.

The problem is that we may struggle to complete the To-Do list, and that hurts.

But there is a way to get a sustaining win from your efforts.

Let’s say you have four things on your To-Do list. Empty your email inbox, finish the report you are working on, follow up with a potential client, and start a new strategy plan.

Three of these seem pretty important, but which one will you start on?

You could “eat that frog” and do the one you least want to do, making the rest of the day much more appealing.

You could do the one that gets completed quickest, ensuring you get at least one thing checked off the list.

You could do the one that will have long-lasting effects on your business or career.

It’s totally up to you to decide which one drives your energy in to high gear. We’re all a bit different and we all have different priorities, so anything you choose is good for you.

Do that! And check that item off with a big, fat slash, or a check mark if that’s more your style.

Sometimes, we don’t get the full feel of satisfaction from checking things off a list. We need some new action to make it all feel worthwhile.

As procrastinators, we tend to beat ourselves up for missing deadlines or being “lazy,” or not having time to work on the critical parts of life, or just frittering away time because the deadline is not until tomorrow. And quite frankly, none of these serve us well.

And because we are procrastinators, we might need a little more feedback or recognition for our efforts.

It’s a wonderful feeling to look back at all the stuff we’ve done. I mean, people collect trophies, certificates, ribbons, and medals all the time.

But often we just let those feelings fade from our memory much like those To-Do lists we crumble and let fall into the trash.

So before you throw away your most recent To-Do list, here’s the new action: Take the top one or two accomplishments from your To-Do list and write them down on a Ta-Da list. That’s right, a Ta-Da list, because that is like a trophy of accomplishment or a certificate of completion. That makes for some lasting, feel-good vibes.

This behavior goes beyond the dopamine rush of checking off an item. It provides a lasting, empowering visual of every important task, project, and goal you’ve worked so hard for.

Take the time to appreciate all the effort you put in each day. Keep a log of all the great, and even the small, things you get done. And remember to review your Ta-Da list when you feel you might be procrastinating or if you’re just feeling a bit down on yourself. It will give you a boost seeing all you’ve accomplished recently and encourage you to focus on and prioritize the important things in your life to keep that list growing with more amazing achievements.

So which procrastinator are you? How will you overcome your challenges? And how will you show yourself a little appreciation for the effort you put in each day?

Your Mindful Moment:

Completing the goal is satisfying. Reviewing your success is gratifying.

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Jimmy Glenos is a Work/Life Performance Coach. He helps people achieve their biggest dreams, reach their highest energy, and attain total work/life fulfillment. With over 30 years of hospitality and health care experience, Jimmy brings deep knowledge and insight to help people lead at work and succeed in life.

4 thoughts on “Make Your To-Do List a Ta-Da List

  1. This is a great article with awesome suggestions! I started this year with a tracker and have it all in one place, it indeed is gratifying to look back and see what I DID complete. 😉

  2. As a guilty procrastinator, I felt like I understood this article very well. Of the four types of procrastinators, I definitely fall under the “self-deprecator” category. I tend to be busy throughout the day with other things and leave the specific tasks I need to complete that are much larger than my usual tasks for much later. At my last job, I used to do something pretty unhealthy known as “revenge bedtime procrastination”. This is when people who have very little control over how they get to spend their free time during the day (often due to working long hours at their day job) refuse to go to sleep until much later so they can regain some of that control. It can be a frustrating feeling when you are overwhelmed with work, so when you finally get home from the long day you just sit on your phone. I try not to allow revenge bedtime procrastination to take over anymore because 1) it prevents the body from getting the amount of rest it needs and 2) the way I spent that time after work wasn’t spent in a meaningful way. I’m 23 years old and suffer from being a little too attached to my phone and social media, so I have gotten carried away and let the hours go by feeling even worse about myself for using my free time like that.

    To promote a sense of accomplishment, I will try to implement this concept of a Ta-Da list in my everyday life. It sounds like an effective method of rewarding oneself after accomplishing something on my To-Do list, even if it is small. I’ll pair this with what I currently do when I’m procrastinating, which is removing distractions. When I really need to check something off my list, I turn off my phone. Back when I was a college student and needed to study for an important exam, I would go to the library. I never went to the library otherwise, but being in that quiet environment gave me a feeling like “Wow, there’s a lot of studious colleagues of mine here. I really need to fit in with them and look like I’m a good student too.” and that would motivate me to get a lot of studying done. Granted, it’s not so easy these days to just go to a library (or many public places due to COVID-19), but even just moving to a different room or optimizing the space you occupy for work to remove distractions can be effective as well.

    1. Thank you, Grey, for being so open and so thoughtful to share your own personal challenges with procrastination. You’re not alone; we all struggle. Your wonderful examples of specific procrastination (revenge bedtime procrastination) and your effective solution for study time (go to the library) are so enlightening and inspiring to hear. Stay focused and keep striving!

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