For years I was the king of big dreams and no progress. I loved pacing the living room, imagining what life would be like when my book was written, my business was thriving, and my bank account was bigger.
Then I would get sucked back into my inbox, pour over the latest reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (everyone needs a weird hobby), or waste more time pacing the living room.
… anything to make sure I was too “busy” to actually do any work.
But after a recent change to the way I use to-do lists. I’m slowly becoming more assertive and procrastinating less.
Before I tell you what the strategy is, let me quickly explain why it works, so you’ll be willing to give it a try.
One cause of procrastination — a problem you can solve
Procrastination, self-doubt, being undisciplined, lacking motivation — whatever you want to call it …
One big culprit is a 4-letter word we hate to say out loud.
In this post, I’m specifically talking about the fear of failure. The fear of taking responsibility for your goals and getting your hopes up…only to be disappointed. The fear of trying your best only to discover your skills weren’t ready for the challenge.
If fear is keeping you from taking action on your goals, you need more than just positive self-talk to beat procrastination. You need evidence that proves you have what it takes to learn new skills, overcome setbacks, and get crap done.
But where can you find this smoking gun evidence?
Often, in the trash can.
Why you should never throw away a to-do list
In his influential research, Psychologist Albert Bandura sought to understand how people develop confidence in their ability to accomplish tasks.
He found the biggest driver to be “mastery experiences” — past achievements where you tried your best, overcame challenges, and ultimately succeeded.
If these moments of success can give us the confidence to counter fear and reduce procrastination, the question quickly becomes:
How can we rack up more of these experiences?
What I’m learning is … we have them every day. We make lists of tasks we need to complete and plow through them one by one, but we rarely pause to recognize what we’ve accomplished once we’re through.
The solution? Save your finished to-do lists.
These messy pieces of paper tell a story. They’re diplomas of a hard day’s works; toasts to your ability, ingenuity, and perseverance; tiny paper trophy cases that memorialize the battles you’ve won; letters of recommendation that clearly state YOU have loads of potential.
Why are you throwing them away?
Maybe you’re married to one of those weird organized people, who can’t stand the thought of papers lying loose.
That’s why I created a “Done list.”
Instead of crossing off to-dos and throwing my lists in the trash, I’ve started copying my accomplishments over to a Done List on my computer, where I record the tasks I’ve completed.
I’m amazed by how tall this list has already grown and how encouraged I feel every time I look at it.
Has my fear vanished? Did I kiss procrastination goodbye forever?
But I fully believe remembering my successes is slowly building my confidence and giving me the courage to be more assertive and productive.
Whether you choose to create a “Done List” or to simply save your old to-do lists, stop throwing away the opportunity to gradually become more confident.
You accomplish difficult tasks every day. Pause long enough to memorialize your wins.
This strategy isn’t a miracle pill, but it’s a reasonable approach for overcoming fear and reducing procrastination — so you can achieve your goals faster.
Give it a try.
Want to go deeper?
Do you have big goals you long to achieve? The biggest threat to your success is simply giving up.
Become a finisher with my short book QuitterProof: The 5 Beliefs of Highly Successful People.
Kyle Young is helping creative people achieve big goals that matter.