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Forget To-Do Lists. You Really Need a ‘Got Done’ List

Most digital productivity tools focus on what you have yet to do, but they never celebrate what you’ve accomplished

Source | | STACY S. KIM

Technology has produced a variety of productivity tools, from task boards to to-do lists, from relational databases to outlines. Yet, rather than give users a sense of accomplishment, they can often instill a sense of being overwhelmed, reminding us what we have left to do. They all seem to be missing a key feature that would help us feel gratified and motivated to do even more: the “got-done” list.

Even before the pandemic, as both a work-family researcher and life coach, I witnessed how talented professionals can feel that they are falling behind despite working hard. In the beginning, I thought they needed to set better priorities. It soon became clear that they experienced numerous interferences both at the office and at home. In fact, the more reliable and caring they were, the more they were asked to help someone out, especially in “emergencies.” These urgent disruptions wreaked havoc on my clients’ own plans, leaving them to declare “I’ve got nothing done!” and feel depleted.

I knew they were not alone. My research colleagues at the Families and Work Institute, Ellen Galinsky and Ipshita Pal, and I analyzed data from the Society of Human Resource Management’s 2016 National Study of the Changing Workforce. This representative study of all US employees indicated that 57 percent report being interrupted often or very often during a typical week, making it very difficult to get their work done.

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