Acknowledge your achievements with a ta-da list

This weekend I was scrolling through Instagram when I came across the idea of a ta-da lists – the idea being that instead of making a to-do list and crossing it off you add all the things you’ve done and celebrate in the moment or at the end of the day. It resonated with me as something simple that we can do to acknowledge your achievements – big or small. 

Why is this important? 

We forget our achievements

When I was training for an eight-hour running race a few years ago I ran the furthest I’d ever run and I was so focused on the next training session I didn’t even notice. I was recalling this is my podcast with respect to staying present. I think it’s important because it’s really easy to forget or downplay all we’ve done in a day, we’re all so busy rushing to the next task. 

Because even in the best of circumstances, we’re better at remembering unfinished tasks than completed ones. Bluma Zeigarnik, a Russian psychiatrist, discovered this in the 1920s. She wrote, “Unfinished items that we’ve left hanging are like cognitive itches.”

It’s why we get to the end of the day and wonder what we’ve actually achieved. We might feel that we couldn’t possibly have been productive, given how much still remains to be done.

We feel guilty for resting

If I take a ‘rest’ day, which, if I’m honest these are rare and, if you’re anything like me, you feel guilty about them. I am a type-A person who wants to be more type B but I am definitely someone who likes to be doing things. As I write this I’m also settling my child to sleep. Downstairs the kitchen needs sorting before I can make lunch and since I don’t like to ‘waste the oven’ I want to cook a few bits too. I feel guilty about the fact I am not tidying up.

Anyway, back to rest days. Over the weekend my sister in law and I decided we’d do a virtual Harry Potter marathon. Each pressing play simultaneously and then chatting via messenger. It worked really well and felt good to be connected to her. As we entered film five the kids were dipping in and out and although we paused occasionally to feed everyone I didn’t really do any house or work stuff…or at least I thought I didn’t. 

Late on Saturday, I shared a post to Instagram setting out what I had done all day, and whilst if I looked at it from the perspective of ‘being lazy’ in front of the TV then, yes, of course, I had been unproductive. However, if I considered the time spent as recuperating and connecting with a member of my family then it was a very productive day. I had accidentally written my own ta-da list! 

A change of perspective

The beauty of a ta-da list is that you can add anything – even the things you might not add to your to-do list because they don’t seem important enough e.g. loading the dishwasher. The thing is though that whilst it doesn’t seem important, it still has to be done (or you run out of dishes eventually!) and it takes time. Just because you wouldn’t normally add them to your list it doesn’t mean they aren’t less important.
I might roll my eyes at my partner when he tells me he’s loaded the dishwasher but actually, he’s got a point. To me, loading the dishwasher is just another thing on my extremely long mental to-do list but that’s on me. That’s my perspective getting in the way. It is his way of acknowledging his achievements and more power to him. 

A ta-da list reminds us of what we have accomplished

For some people, they don’t need a list to know they have been productive. In fact, some folks aren’t worried at all about being productive (I aspire to this!) – they want to live their life well. If however, you need that reminder then a ta-da list can provide it. For me, it demonstrates:
  • I have used my time well. We only have 24 hours a day after all. It tells me I haven’t spent all day doing things that aren’t good for me (like spending all day on Facebook – though I might celebrate staying under my limit)
  • How I contribute to the family, how I add value, that I am enough.
  • Where I could delegate to others – especially if anything I did resulted in me feeling frustrated or resentful. I uttered the words “I am not dobby the house-elf, y’know” to my kids this weekend as I tidied up the toys for the third time because they weren’t baby-friendly. We talked about being a team.
  • What I did accomplish, especially if they weren’t things I was planning to achieve!

Whereas a to-do list can often send us running for a blanket and the remote, taking a look at how much you’ve already achieved during the course of the day is energizing and validating. Despite all the obstacles thrown at you, your focus is where it should be: on what you accomplished instead of what you didn’t get done. 

A tool for change

A ta-da list can motivate us to do more (if we want to) or give us permission to rest, knowing we have achieved more than we think. It is a great place to start with planning where we want to go next. What can we build on or improve? What worked?

Also useful to remember is that a ta-da list doesn’t have an endpoint. You can add to it as often as you like, as a tangible reminder of how far you’ve come. Some of you might use to look at a whole year, others daily. It’s your tool for change. Unlike a traditional to-do list, where you might consider your worth depending on how much you’ve achieved, your ta-da list is always celebratory and affirming in nature.


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