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“The Ta-Da List Is the Antidote to To-Do List Shame”

Instead of focusing on what you haven’t done yet, the Ta-Da list keeps track of everything you already did.

You know that feeling of desperately trying to put on hold what you have to say until it’s your turn to speak? That’s not fun, and yet we end up giving ourselves that feeling all the time with our to-do lists.

We constantly ask ourselves, “What do I have to do next?” or “What do I have to do later?” or “How will I remember everything I have on my to-do list today?” We are so focused on what we have not done that we forget to count the things that we already did!  When do we remember, celebrate, and give ourselves credit for those things?

Here is an experiment:

  • Think of everything on your to-do list—every little thing you’d ideally like to get done today.
  • Now try thinking of every little thing you got done yesterday.
  • Which is harder?

I bet you ran out of things that you did yesterday before you ran out of things that you’d like to do today. I’d even bet that you forgot more things that you did yesterday than you would ideally like to do today.

Those of us with ADHD brains are notorious for wanting to do more in a day than is humanly possible, and for beating ourselves up when we don’t meet that crazy standard. It’s a setup! Between having poor time management, a hard time planning due to our executive function deficits, and a lifetime of focusing on trying not to forget what we want to say or do, we walk right into a shame trap day after day.

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When you think of things in this way, it is no wonder our poor memory and ever-increasing to-do lists make us feel like we didn’t do enough, even when we did. How are we ever supposed to learn what we can do in a day if we never look at what we have done in a day?

We need a different way of gauging a day’s productivity. We need to work with our nature, instead of against it. We need to stop feeling bad when we get to the end of the day and focus solely on everything that didn’t get done. We need a Ta-Da list.

The Ta-Da list is the fun cousin of the to-do list. Instead of focusing on what is not yet done, the Ta-Da list keeps track of everything you already did. This way, when you think, “What did I do with my day?” you will be able to look at your Ta-Da list— and you will probably find that you did more than you thought.

So give it a try. Make a list of everything you did so far today and keep adding to it. Don’t forget to count the little things, like your commute, dropping off the kids, or brushing your teeth. If you did them, they count. You may start to develop a better sense of what you can accomplish in a day. This will be useful information when you’re planning your days in the future.

And always remember that you are human, you are doing your best, and perfection is impossible. Instead, focus on what got done and think Ta-Da!

[Read This Next: Talk Your Way to Productivity]

3 Comments & Reviews


    My current to do list makes me feel sick.
    It’s nearby, but I have the side that’s written on with the list, facing away so I can’t see it.

    I’m going to do a ta-da list right now & see how I feel 😊

  2. I’ve been doing this for a very long time, having created it out of a deep depression when I literally couldn’t do ANYthing but sleep and breathe. At first I’d get 1 thing done and try to do 1 thing everyday. After a week or two of that, I noticed I started doing 2 or 3 things without even thinking about it! I still keep a “ta-da” list for exactly the reason you mention: I want to know what I did with my day, what I did accomplish, and not feel so much guilt for all the undone to-dos that get shoved to tomorrow’s date. I don’t do tiny things like brushing my teeth, but maybe I should. 🙂

  3. Last week I was searching for resources on how to get better at estimating what I can get done in a certain amount of time but didn’t find what I was looking for. This seems like a great strategy. I to have a to-do list that I manage daily, but I never review it after the fact. That could be the missing piece to improving in this skill. Thank you.

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