To Do lists vs. Ta Da lists

There has been quite some conversation going on in the new ‘Filo Focus’ group, and amongst other things we were talking about ‘hacks’ to keep your attention on your tasks and projects. I’m a classic case of non-DX’ed ADD (which gets A LOT better with taking omega 3-6-9 capsules… but only IF I DON’T FORGET TAKING THEM :p) so my life is based on To Do lists. If I don’t write it down, it doesn’t get done. The Post-It industry has profited a lot from my purchases over the last couple of years.

But, as I discovered many of you have experienced, I sometimes just can’t seem to start. I’ll be at home with a looong to do list but I get anxious at seeing all of those unfinished tasks (sometimes several pages, if I go all GTD and clear my hear on paper) and I just get, well, overwhelmed. At the end of the day I won’t have anything done.

At work, this happens to me too, sometimes. Luckily I have short deadlines (I work SO good under deadlines) and I get everything done just fine, but beginning, or planning my day, seems to be a struggle over and over again. I had two weeks off from work, at home with my son, and used that time to think things through before going back to work tomorrow.

So! I had to think of solutions. I started by analysing my problem. It all comes down to:

– being overwhelmed when seeing a large list of tasks, and not starting anything

– having the attention span of a mosquito

– feeling inadequate when I haven’t crossed EVERYTHING off in the evening, aka setting too high standards for myself

– loosing track of time

What have I tried the last week? Writing Ta Da lists next to my To Do lists.

Ta Da lists are a concept I use from the Flylady system. It’s a list of accomplishments. It really gets me motivated to see my Ta Da list in the evening and being happy with everything I’ve done. I still use my master To Do lists (in my A5 for work and in my Personal for, well, personal :p) but I write a task on my Ta Da list everytimes it is finished.

I started doing that at work a couple of weeks ago, on my Time Management inserts in my A5 Gillio planner: I write down what I’ve done, on what day, and what category it belongs to. That way I can see what project takes up most of my time.


That was working out great, so I’m now making Ta Da lists in my Filofax at home as well.



I also use a timer set to 15 minutes, because if I enter the bathroom to do some laundry, you can be sure I will discover something else that grabs my attention either on the way to the bathroom, or inside the bathroom. Like the shoe rack in the hall that could use some organisation or my ever growing stock of cosmetics that need re-arranging. The timer reminds me I was actually there for something else 😉

I can afterwards put this Ta Da list next to my master To Do list and cross off what has been done. The satisfaction of filling this little post-it is great, it encourages me not to leave it empty, and I try not to overthink: if I did it, it goes on the list. Not debating with myself over ‘is that really an accomplishment, taking out the trash?’. Yes. It goes on the list.

And I keep them in my planner for some days because I like how it reminds me I’m on track 🙂

Does anybody have other hacks to share?


9 thoughts on “To Do lists vs. Ta Da lists

  1. Whatever we give positive attention to gets done more often and with more happiness. So add taking your Omega capsules to your Ta Da! list. I no longer add repetitive tasks to my To Do list, because the list gets too long and I KNOW what has to be done. (It’s the stuff I beat myself up about all the time!) I add things to my Done list as I do them, and the sense of accomplishment encourages me to do them again until they become a habit. Once something is a habit it’s no longer a task and doesn’t have to go on a list. I’m going to try your timer idea.

  2. Mella, this is blinkin’ brilliant. A ‘ta-da’ list as positive reinforcement that things have been achieved, instead of feeling pathetic over what hadn’t been done. I also like your timer idea for staying on task. I’ll try it. 🙂

  3. Are we related? I am happy to hear that I am not the only one with the problem. I get overwhelmed by huge tasks and I am easily distracted while working on one thing because I see something else that needs to be done. I have started trying to break everything into small groups of tasks. Like I want to redo my closet, so one day it is just shoes, dont worry about anything else just the shoes…

  4. I’ve done that before as well. Sometimes it’s more motivating to write down what I did than what I need to do.

  5. Love this idea Mella! I am going to create a ‘Ta Da List’ for my filo’s too, I get so distracted by other things on the way to doing the original thing that I just never give myself credit for, and it’s the constant self-beating of setting too high a list and the disappointment at not achieving everything – this way you can see quite clearly WHY you haven’t achieved everything – because you’ve done way more than you originally set out to do, it just wasn’t on the original list!!!

    Thanks for this x

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