If you keep a to-do list, how do you track the stuff you get done that isn’t on the list?
I suspect nearly all of us have done the thing where you add a recently completed task to your to-do list just so you can have the pleasure of crossing it off, right?
With the reverse to-do list method, you add every completed task to your list, whether it was originally part of your to-do list or not.
Using a task list or to-do list to organise your days is a great starting tool, but keeping a record of what you actually got done is just as important. Think of it like keeping an accurate calendar (that is, one where you delete any meetings that didn’t take place or events you didn’t attend, and add anything that came up last-minute). Your to-do list isn’t just a way to help you plan your schedule. It’s also a record of what you accomplished.
Although you can add a completed task to your to-do list at any time, Apartment Therapy suggests using the reverse to-do list method at the end of your day to reflect on what you got done today and where you need to begin tomorrow:
Typical to-do lists are created before the work is done (it’s right there in the tense of the name). Reverse to-do lists, on the other hand, are made at the end of the day to document all that you’ve accomplished that day. That way, you can feel great about your progress, and set yourself up to know exactly where to start when the next session begins.
I tend not to wait until the end of the day, though. I don’t want to inadvertently forget any completed task, no matter how small.
I know that some of you are going to think, “Isn’t this just how people keep to-do lists?” Maybe. But I know there are others of you who will read this and be inspired to start tracking not only the tasks you want to complete every day, but also the stuff that actually gets done.
Then you’ll use that information to make a better to-do list for tomorrow, or to structure your work in a way that helps you hit your deadlines, or to present a list of achievements at a performance review, or to simply have a record (for yourself and/or your supervisor) of how you really spend your time.
So start thinking of your to-do list as a tool that works in both directions: to help you plan your day, and to reveal what you did when your day didn’t go as planned.