Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Done! There's a satisfaction that comes with completing a task – striking a fat line through and item on your to-do list, or putting a large check mark beside it.

But such moments are fleeting. Our lives are ruled by to-do lists, always pummelling us with more tasks to tackle. And Janet Choi thinks that's wrong. She believes you also need a "done" list, with reminders of everything you have completed.

She works as creative director at, which offers an app for tracking your accomplishments, revolving around a daily e-mail asking you to log the tasks you've completed in a record the app keeps for review. It's free for individuals, with a cost for businesses, but you obviously don't need the app to take advantage of the idea behind it.

Story continues below advertisement

"Writing down what you get done focuses you on accomplishments and progress. You use your history to bring you forward," Ms. Choi said in an interview.

The importance of progress was highlighted in the 2011 bestseller The Progress Principle by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer. Their research, studying daily diary entries by 238 people on 26 project teams, found that making headway on meaningful work brightens a person's inner work life and boosts long-term progress. It isn't monetary rewards and recognition that truly motivate us. It's a sense that we are accomplishing something meaningful – day by day.

That's where a done list comes in. "When you record your dones, you capture proof of progress, enabling you to see all the tiny triumphs that hold value in the long run, rather than focusing too much on what's left on your plate. That plate is going to be full most of the time anyway. So it's ultimately more useful for you to accept that and learn from your progress history to fill your plate in a happier, healthier, richer way," Ms. Choi writes in a free e-book offered by her company, The Busy Person's Guide to the Done List.

A done list can be maintained by a team as well as individuals. One of the advantages of the done list – compared with simple tick marks on your to-do list to review your progress – is that a lot of your day's work never makes the to-do list, as you receive phone calls and e-mails that lead to decisions or prompt immediate action. The done list can capture those, as well as the progress that flows from meetings you attend.

With tongue firmly in cheek, Marc Andreessen, founder of Netscape, Opsware and Ning, and now a prominent venture capitalist, calls the done list his anti-to-do list. He keeps his record on index cards and loves the rush of endorphins when he marks something on it.

In the e-book, he said that it comes in particularly handy "those days when you're running around all day and doing stuff and talking to people and making calls and responding to e-mails and filling out paperwork and you get home and you're completely exhausted and you say to yourself, 'What … did I actually get done today?' "

Some people mark down items as they finish a task. Others find that ruins the flow of the day and prefer to do it in the evening. Ideally, your list is more than just a list – it's a point of departure for reflection on the day or recent days.

Story continues below advertisement

"The reflection part is important. If you just keep a running list, you don't get a higher-level understanding of what you are accomplishing," Ms. Choi said in the interview. In the book, she suggests the following questions to help such reflection:

What did I get done today?

This is your essential starting point.

What did I make progress on today?

Even on frustrating days, you have likely moved forward on at least one item, she points out.

What stood out today and how did it make me feel?

Story continues below advertisement

Did a co-worker compliment me? Was a task particularly frustrating or difficult to get through? Am I proud of or frustrated by something I did today? What was remarkable about the day? "Our emotions get left out of discussions on productivity," Ms. Choi said in the interview. "So we want to add it into the reflection part. It's important to find out why you were frustrated – it may reveal a pattern."

What did I do today that I especially want to remember tomorrow?

The answer to this question may be useful for a future performance evaluation or your annual New Year's reflection on your life.

How can I turn negatives into progress tomorrow?

It's important to learn from setbacks and errors.

What good have I done today?

Story continues below advertisement

The answer to this question may brush away negative feelings and highlight what is important.

The toughest part of a done list, Ms. Choi noted in the interview, is actually taking the time to write down items and review them. Our lives are ruled by the urgent, and this list-making may not seem urgent. But it's important, and she believes it is vital to incorporate it into your daily life.

Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online work-life column Balance. E-mail Harvey Schachter

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies