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Here’s What Happened When I Started Writing “Anti-To-Do Lists”

Source | FastCompany : By KAT BOOGAARD

I live and die by my to-do list. Jotting down everything that needs to get done is often the very first thing I do when I sit down at my desk in the morning. It helps me to feel focused, organized, and like I have a decent plan of attack for my day.

But despite the fact that my planner has the capability to make me feel like some sort of productivity prodigy, it also has a sneaky way of swooping in and making me feel downright unaccomplished.

You know the feeling: You start your morning by scribbling down all sorts of different tasks and projects—you feel motivated and confident that you’re about to put them all to shame, despite the fact that (in reality) it would likely take you three days to complete everything you’ve written down. You’re blinded by your own optimism.

Suddenly, the end of the workday creeps up, you glance down at your beloved list, and over half of those items remain completely untouched. “What the heck have I been doing for the past eight hours?” you ask yourself in between sobs and sighs. You’re left feeling frustrated, discouraged, and disheartened.

Unfortunately, this situation is all too familiar to most of us. Yes, in some cases, writing your to-dos down is great for keeping you on track. But there are also far too many times when it only serves to make you feel plain ol’ crappy. Even if you put in a solid day’s work, you’re forced to focus on all of the things that you didn’t manage to get done—and you completely forget about anything you actually did get accomplished (particularly if it wasn’t on your calendar to begin with!).

This is a trap I’ve fallen into far too often. So needless to say, I was intrigued when I read an article about the “anti–to-do list,” a productivity concept established by Marc Andreessen. And, as I’m sure you could guess, I was all too willing to jump in and give it a try.


If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, I can’t blame you. I was too until I stumbled across that article. Basically, this strategy works backwards from its traditional counterpart. Rather than writing down things you need to do, you write down the things you’ve already done—whether they’re big projects or little action items.

By implementing this method, you end your workday with a list of all of the things you accomplished—rather than a daunting roster of all of the things that are still left to do.

The whole thing sounded simultaneously encouraging and terrifying. On one hand, I liked the idea of focusing on the positives. But, how could I possibly function without my to-do list? I’d never tried to make it through a day without one, and I was certain the entire experiment (which I decided to implement for one entire workweek) would be a recipe for disaster.

However, surprisingly, nothing too detrimental happened. And, the whole process actually illustrated a few helpful lessons. Here are three major things I learned by using only the anti to-do list, and kicking my tried and trusted list of duties to the curb.

Read On…

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