Today’s post is by Danielle Porter, an amazing member of Team LearnDoBecome! If you’d like to listen to this article, you can find the audio here: Finally Feeling On Your Game – Three Audio Posts!
Working from a solid “Next Actions List” is one of the most basic components of the STEP system here at LearnDoBecome. This context-based list–organized with the five categories of “home, computer, phone calls, errands, and items to discuss”–keeps me keyed in on what needs to be done within the week, and it’s not calendar specific, so I can get things done on my terms.
I create this powerful list during my Weekly Review–choosing only the most necessary tasks that will leverage my projects and general life needs, and I refer to it daily. It feels amazing to wrap up each week, having accomplished most, if not all, of the items on my list.
(Interested in your own Next Actions List? Read on–there’s a free download below!)
Many days, however, I am doing quite a bit, but not getting things done like I had planned.
I often run my pen down the list in my planner without making a single check mark.
Sound familiar? I discovered that very often life was “getting in the way” of my tasks.
Instead of efficiently running to the bank, grocery store and library, my errand time escaped while chatting with a friend who dropped by. Rather than filing papers and organizing the closet like planned, I found myself reading books to my toddler. The time dedicated to catching up on emails was replaced with enjoying a walk with my family on an early spring day.
While I didn’t regret these beautiful opportunity costs, I wasn’t feeling fulfilled by them. In the moment, I didn’t see them as truly valuable–only that they were taking up space for what needed to get done.
I felt a little cheated on both sides; not only was I not getting everything done, but I wasn’t even fully experiencing the things I could be enjoying.
I determined to start noting the things I was doing– even if those experiences weren’t previously defined.
What started as a slowly-growing “grateful list” in the back of my planner turned into a daily log of “Happy Success” moments listed directly to the right of my Next Actions List.
This simple act is changing how I get things done.
I am filled with more feelings of abundance in completing tasks that matter. I am savoring the important–but not “productive” experiences. I am loving it!
I continue to check in on my Next Actions List throughout the day, and then at night I take a few minutes to review things I can add to my “Happy Success List.”
My notes are realistic and never glamorous.
I have listed things such as the following:
- Listened to a child without interrupting
- Took a deep breath when I wanted to stress
- Stayed up past my goal bedtime to chat with husband
- Only got upset one time with a particular child today
- Brushed my teeth an extra time just because it felt good
- Said a prayer for a stranger
- Actually looked at my food before I ate it (and took time to enjoy it)
- Listened to my favorite playlist
- Noticed good energy from my breakfast smoothie
- Wrote a quick thank you email to a teacher
Now that both lists are equally utilized, I am feeling both the thrill of completing Next Actions and also recognizing (and looking for!) ways to strengthen relationships, take care of myself, and enjoy life more fully.
If your “To-Do List” is too long and you are finding you can’t seem to keep up, check out how we can help you create your own Context Based Next Action List (our free class will walk you through the process!). Pair this with your own Happy Success List and you’ll be unstoppable–and happier.
Click here to get your own Next Actions & Happy Success Template!
***And if you want to take a moment below to comment just ONE thing that you would write on your “Happy Success List” this week, that would be amazing. 🙂
When a friend stop by unexpectedly I genuinely welcome her to come in and have coffee/tea. Usually when that happens I sometimes think while making the coffee/tea about the things I should be doing and that the visit will put me behind in my accomplishments.
To me, Being a friend, having people want to talk to you, is an accomplishment. I think society has somehow devalued this – but in reality, it’s important and shows value to you. The washed laundry won’t be showing up at your funeral. Maybe your friend will.
Totally! I think our society values getting things done over relationships. In other cultures, it is often the opposite. 🙂 Thanks for your comment!
I failing student came by after school, passed the time when I wanted to leave. I worked with them for several minutes and was not impatient with them interfering with my garden plans.
That was a failing student…
Love this, Danielle! I donated a fruit tray to the middle school teacher’s luncheon today and signed up to help cover recess for my elementary school kids for an hour and to help walk kids to the pool on Friday. The trip to the store and time spent volunteering sometimes makes me automatically think of everything I WON’T get done because I’m doing those things, but deep down volunteering fills me up emotionally and I know really I’ll be more productive in the long run. I’ll try your list out! Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Andrea! And YES I agree- the idea of looking for what ‘fills me up’ is a good theme to live by. Thanks!
Michelle Halladay says
I love this! These things have happened to me for years. I think the Lord has a to do list for me! Some days I would get frustrated by not getting my list done… but through the years noticed His list was better. Helping a neighbor or my kids at school, now helping my aging parents or loving and listening to a grand child intently… all the best things on our lists. Now I have a gratitude journal to write in each day. I realize my important things first help me accomplish the other less fulfilling but necessary things after. I am excited to try this list as well.
Taryn Wood says
This is beautiful, Michelle! Recognizing and celebrating those small steps and opportunities to serve is such a beautiful opportunity to see the growth and service that happens throughout life. We’re so glad you’re here!
Patty Bates says
A friend said she could go for a walk. I dropped everything and went. We hadn’t gotten to see each other for almost a year.
My 89 year old mom-in-love needs a driver for her hair appointment. It will take up my afternoon, but that’s ok!!
And the list goes on!
Talked to my daughter who has been having severe anxiety. According to research, hearing your mom’s voice has a similar effect to getting a hug. Since she lives far away, I could give her a hug by phone.
This is real and exactly what matters most. Thanks for sharing Lisa.
Rae Huneke says
This hit home Lisa. My daughter, too, now lives far away and sometimes really needs to to talk, and to listen. The conversations aren’t always easy, and they often are not at a “convenient” time, but I am so very grateful to be able to give her a hug, even via phone. Ultimately I get a hug too.
I am learning (an ever constant present tense, as I haven’t fully learned) more and more how to be wise in what I do, and when to be content with what is not getting done. I do have to be mindful not to simply be distracted, lazy, or procrastinating. But relationships rate higher than productivity.
Thank you Danielle, for this fabulous idea of consciously framing these supposed interruptions as noteworthy accomplishments.
Michelle Halladay says
Darin Oakes says
This is a great idea!
I’ve added it to the Create My Day list (truly I track the entire week) under –
How will I strengthen my relationships…
I have checkboxes with the things that are helping me be more intentional (using Evernote), but as things come up I’m adding them to the section without a checkbox so I can differentiate intentional from serendipitous.
Examples of what happened in the flow of life today:
> Paid $415 (25% down and re-connection fee) to help restore electricity for a person and get a plan in place.
> Talked with Gale > encouraged in the Lord.
> Helped Carlos with printer setup (yea! all computers are printing)
I only started today, but am already sensing my gratitude grow. These were unplanned but worthwhile.
<3 / + ?
These are so specific and fantastic! Thanks for sharing this- and I am glad you are regularly looking for opportunities like this…
Dana L Gass says
I spent time with my husband last night, watching our favorite show and talking about anything and everything that was on our minds. I have a chronic illness that limits my energy , and my husband works full time and helps around the house. We barely have any time for “just us”. I think the Happy Success List is a great idea. It might also reframe what I think about things I have to do versus want to do. Thanks Danielle and STEP!
Barb Stephens says
“reframe what I think about things I have to do versus want to do. ” I really appreciate that way of thinking…to many ‘have to do’ items and I couldn’t figure out why I was starting to lose energy and have symptoms of depression…attributing to stress of caretaking for MIL with severe dementia and all the times I have to answer over and over again…but there’s no need to focus on that when she also recognizes that ‘it’s a pretty day, today, isn’t it?’
Michelle Halladay says
Bless you. That’s the phase I’m in as well with my dad. It’s rewarding yet so stressful. It takes a toll. I’m trying to get my basic command center etc organized- yet I am needed to help with my dad daily. There is a time and season for everything –
I’m getting in some 10 minute micro bursts here and there and it’s adding up. I feel bless to sons time with my dad, and that little bit of productivity helps me also fill like at least I’m accomplishing something at home here and there. Prayers for you!
Thanks Dana and Barbara, I agree- reframing is not only helpful in the moment but it really does carry our energy farther, and helps us let go of what we don’t need to focus on. Thanks for your thoughts!
Julie Coons says
This is brilliant! What a great way to notice all those accomplishments that we don’t schedule!
Kristi Meiners says
I took an unplanned walk with my daughter and grandson when they dropped by. I’m thankful to have this perspective. I’ve been stressed because I’m not getting done what I had planned today. This was much more important!
Thanks Kristi- I am glad you mentioned this. It is hard to not stress, the stuff doesn’t just go away, but yes, feeling good about what matters most does help get through the things we do still have on our plate. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!
kathy Haigler says
Loved this!! So wonderful to be around like-minded people:) Thank you for sharing!! Im printing it out for sure!
When my friend unexpectedly needed to visit her ailing father, we dropped everything to receive her pet for the time that she’ll be gone.
Teresa Meacham says
Took time to cuddle with my oldest grandson who is six and read one of his favorite books with him (The Little Blue Truck’s Christmas) and then took time to admire the lights that came on at the end of the book. I really like this idea!
Roya McCauley says
You all are amazing! I have just been adding these oddball accomplishments to my To-do / Got-it-done List. Now this will make the list so much clearer.
I want to share something with all the “pilers” out there. I wish I had found her sooner, Barbara Sher wrote “Refuse to Choose”. In this book she explains why some of us just can’t get certain things done and that some of us are “scanners” and we just love to learn things and explore everything. In the book so far, I’ve just started reading it, she says how to keep a special journal of your explorations and that it’s ok to not finish every idea but to satisfy the Explorer in you to peek into these subjects that interest us and eventually a pattern to who we are and what interests us forms. And the Journal becomes something you can leave for future generations to know who you are as well.
So for anyone struggling with unfinished projects and piles of ideas that are overwhelming you Barbara Sher may have some solutions for that.
Much love to you and to the Learn Do Become Team!
Taryn Wood says
This is fantastic! That book sounds intriguing. Thanks for sharing, Roya!
Karla S Havlina says
All of Barbara’s books are amazing! She became my mentor, and through the Hanging Out with Barbara Sher program, a great friend to me.
Texted a teenager in my neighborhood who was in need of support!! Extended an offer to help them with a big goal of theirs!
I had my breakfast & tea out on the patio this morning. Instead of rushing to chow down my food I took time to feel the warmth, chew my food, smell the tea! It’s already made me more productive in the office!
Danielle Porter says
Thanks for sharing- it’s crazy how quickly we speed up in life, and such simple things can really bring satisfaction and help us move forward…thanks – this is a great example!
This will change my daily thinking of defeat when that list just doesn’t get done! Already added to my “happy success” list today when I found the little ones with a precious keepsake book about our passed family pet. Instead of getting angry they were in the cabinet they’re not supposed to be in, I sat down with them and read the book and told them about our sweet dog they never had the chance to meet. 🙂
Danielle Porter says
This is so sweet…perfect chance to connect, and this is a great example.
Yes, I love this idea as well. Thank you for sharing your samples of successes. Those are great ideas to keep track of, so you can repeat some of those things again sometime.
Lisa Price says
I love this idea!! Thanks for sharing 🙂
I have ADHD, it’s easy to get distracted or change my plans around. Just last night I ended up in a conversation with a friend. It was great to catch up even though I put some things off 🙂
I took a walk with an elderly lady through the park this morning and wrote a text welcoming our neighbor back home after having to spend several months in the hospital.
Thanks so much for taking the time to write this article so we too can benefit from your experiences. I need to do this everyday so I can physically see that my life and the actions I do really do matter and in turn I hope it will lift my spirits.
Danielle Porter says
Michelle! Yes, this is totally the truth. Our actions do matter- and it’s so easy to get caught up in the gold star things that we forget that these things really are what life is all about. Thanks for sharing- these are great ways to spend time.
This is fabulous. Truly the thing I’ve been missing! I wasn’t even aware at how I was living very conflicted with this – wanting so much to be “productive,” but having too big of a heart for hurting people to mow over them with my “plan for the day.” I’d feel defeated at the end of the day or week for not accomplishing more. But then also not be able to live the productivity thing whole-heartedly because of all the interruptions. It’s definitely wise to evaluate the interruptions and learn how to manage them, but I love the idea of actually CELEBRATING the worthwhile interruptions and the wise spur-of-the-moment choices that actually feed my soul.
Thank you so much for sharing this epiphany! I’m so glad I actually took the time to read it! Even though it wasn’t on my agenda for today! 🙂
Stuart Taylor says
This is so good Danielle! Loved it!
Fiona Ann McLaughlin says
Yes! Way to mainline into gratitude and joy, Danielle! Fabulous innovation. Thank you for sharing!
Helped my daughter wrestle through a tough concept in math, and sent a fellow (and very overwhelmed!) mama some encouragement. Thanks for keeping us mindful of the eternal things!
Lealani Little says
I love the idea of recording Happy Successes from the day! Mine from today: I took my younger three kids on a walk after dinner.
My husband and I have been utilizing our new patio set each evening just enjoying the cooler evening weather and all the night sounds. Tonight we listened to dueling owls. There’s always something else I could be doing, but spending time with loved ones is so much more important.
Dana Ritter says
Going to a Mother’s Day Tea Party with my 5yo, instead of working on the dreaded playroom disaster area that I hoped to clean up while kids are at school. I know how happy he’ll be when I arrive and how special he will make me feel. It’s these moments that truly mean the most!
Went grocery shopping with a friend. Because she was feeling down, didn’t want to, and wanted company. And you know what? We had a blast!
Christine F says
Thank you Danielle!!! This is brilliant and SO simple, yet so important, why hasn’t it been proposed before! I’m in a little shock over it because this is so much of my every day, still, as I’m moving forward in STEP and having more compassion for myself and breaking things into microbursts, yet still detouring quite a bit. One thing I’d put on the list is taking time for phone calls and sitting down with a friend to revisit the beautiful wedding we had last weekend for my daughter…completely valuable and don’t want to miss it…gently reminding myself getting back to ‘the next actions’ can be delayed a little. ❤️❤️❤️
Danielle Porter says
Thanks Christine- and I think you are spot on. The valuable things are not always what we see as productive next actions. So glad you are moving forward in STEP and love that you mention compassion. This is what it is all about. 🙂
Love the Happy Success list right next to the Next Actions list !
I also love that you live like me, that you want to bless others, that you want to put them first, and that you pray for others !
Thank you for being well balanced and real !!!
I was looking for an email address to my Dad’s nursing home, and ended up unsubscribing from many emails I hadnt been reading for months !
I came to yours, was curious, and read the article about “Happy Success”.
That was SO ENCOURAGING ! Look at all I got done !!! Less emails, and a new “Happy Success” list to encourage me each day !
That helped me know too keep YOUR emails coming !
Danielle Porter says
Thanks Narda- we are so glad to have you with us!
I love this! Today, with friend, we took a plate of food to another friend who didn’t show up to a potluck lunch get together. We didn’t go in, though invited. Unplanned but it felt good.
I wish I had kept a Happy Success list during the years my children were small. I had four preschoolers and one in school for awhile and felt like I didn’t get much done. But in fact I filled up my days with happy and it would be precious to read now. Though they are all grown I love that I can start this list now and see how I still have happy!
I am grateful to wake up each day and start anew, but this week I will focus on decluttering from the inside and out.
Took an evening walk with my kids and delighted in stomping through mud puddles after a much-needed rain (instead of cleaning up the kitchen after dinner) – happy success!
Alyssa Clevenger says
I sat and chatted with our company Saturday evening.
Barbara Conklin says
Monday – I bought teddy bears for children that enter the emergency room that may be dealing with a crisis.
Friday – I sent a email to my co-workers to encourage them and thank them for the hard work they do each day.
Feeling down in the dumps yesterday, I pulled out my calendar and wrote down all my team’s games for the fall and all of the Met Operas at the Cinema I can enjoy. My little way of cheering myself up.
Also, helped my son buy books for his upcoming freshman year at college.
My daughter and I stayed up past our bedtimes to watch one of her favorite shows on Netflix. I feel like we really bonded!!
Taryn Wood says
That’s great, Mary! Thank you for taking the time to comment. We’re glad you’re here!
Played with the kids tonight. It felt so good to do as I promised (play with them on Wednesday) and finally connect with them through play. We also did a 5-minute microburst of cleaning their room before we played, so win-win 🙂
April Perry says
This is wonderful!! Great job, Olga!
Thank you so much for sharing this, I really needed to hear it! Things have been so bad and messed up the past two years we have lost perspective on many things. This is totally awesome! I have made calls to friends in other states who are battling cancer or have other difficulties going on in their lives instead of waiting for them to call me, it was so fulfilling to catch up and hear their voices and responses. 🙂