The “I did” List
You all know the feeling: Your alarm goes off like a stock market bell clanging in your head. Instantly, like Wall Street floor traders, various items of your “to do” list swarm into your conscious begging for your attention, shouting over each other to be heard.
Before you can even get out of bed, you’re already behind. Your day is a constant game of catchup, straining to tick off item by item, scrambling for the next task on your never-ending list. By the time you get home from work, the Wall Street traders in your mind are slumped over bar, shirts untucked, cradling a whiskey. You are criticizing yourself, dwelling on all the things you didn’t accomplish, only to go to bed, wake up, and start the cycle all over again. Sound familiar?
This is an example of something the brilliant Brené Brown refers to as the “not enough” complex, which she talks about when describing her research on shame. In her own words:
What underpinned this shame, this “I’m not good enough,” — which we all know that feeling: “I’m not blank enough. I’m not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough.” The thing that underpinned this was excruciating vulnerability, this idea of, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.”
This fixation on what we don’t have or didn’t do is not only a constant strain on our mental wellbeing but actually blocks creative and confident flow, two key components to productivity. Additionally, the less it’s talked about, the more these feelings of shame and “not enough-ness” are reinforced.
In a sense, feeling like we’re not enough creates the very same problem we’re berating ourselves for.
Being painfully aware of this cycle myself, I talked to my fellow teammate Noora who shared the same stress. On top of feeling overwhelmed and unproductive, my apparent lack of accomplishments was making me feel like a district member from the Hunger Games, fighting for survival, but in this case, for acceptance and praise. The more I pushed myself to cross items off my list, the more I fixated on what I didn’t accomplish, the less I felt like I deserved a place “at the table.”
In search of a solution to this, Noora suggested to make an “I did” list, essentially a counter to the “to do” list. By making a list of accomplishments that range from completing successful work projects, to simply putting on real pants that morning, the idea is to bring your fragile psyche back to equilibrium by reminding ourselves of what we have already achieved (one leg at a time folks.) Such a simple and seemingly easy exercise doesn’t seem like much, but even the very act of self-appreciation and “wholeheartedness” not only gives our egos a much-needed boost, but increases productivity and happiness.
So now I challenge you to try it for yourself. Make an “I did” list and see how you feel. Perhaps the next time you wake up, instead of clanging bell, the voices inside your head will be a jubilant choir singing the “Hallelujah Chorus.”
About the Author: Cecily Mauran
Co-founder and Director of Content of GO (Global Opportunity), an agency that specializes in short-term high-impact projects in emerging entrepreneurial ecosystems. I believe that entrepreneurship is a tool for social change. I believe in the power of storytelling. I am an outdoors enthusiast, a photographer, and lover of dogs– especially the stray ones. Born and raised in New England, with piece of my heart in Chile.