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Wrapping Up the Year: Turning the Page from To-Do to Ta-Da!

One important exercise to flip the script on year-end anxiety


Every Friday around 2pm, I used to sense a quickly increasing anxiety spurred by the status of my week’s To-Do List. It was as if the items crossed off on my To-Do List had become invisible, and all I saw, framed by flashing red lights, were the items that remained uncrossed off, the ones I didn’t quite get to. 

In that state of being, focused quickly morphed into frantic, which of course made me even less effective in those final few hours of the workweek.

Look, I’m an ambitious person with a “glass half full” outlook. As a result, I often am overly optimistic about what I can accomplish, loading up my To-Do List with every possible task I can sweep up from the corners of my consciousness. Gathered together, they comprise a list so lengthy that I can hardly read through it, much less work through it. So there I would I find myself at the end of each workweek, stuck in the shadow of should-haves, deflated by to-dos that never got done. 

Can you relate?

When December rolls around, each day starts to resemble a ‘roided up version of the “Friday frantics.” I look at my intentions for the past year and start to plot how I might possibly redeem myself: Oh my, I was so good at exercising every day last January, but then I slowed and slowed to slug-status. Crap!…I better slap on some sweatpants (better known these days as “my loungewear”) and find my gym membership card pronto (hmmm…when did I last see that darn thing?!).

If you’re like me, you may be at peak risk right about now in the latter half of December of realizing that redemption can’t happen quite that quickly. You might have moved on to lamenting resolutions long lost, likely found somewhere in the vicinity of last February. You may be harping on the hopes and plans that didn’t quite come to fruition. You may be feeling trapped by the tyranny of the unticked to-dos. 

Right about now (like, right now!), it’s time to put away that To-Do List. Turn the page in that Bullet Journal (seriously, did they intend that pun?!) to a fresh new space. 

Now, you get to create the list that really matters, the one that will honor you and your efforts. The list that will consider the challenges you faced down, and that will transform your grumbles into growth: The Ta-Da List.

A Ta-Da List is kind of like a reverse To-Do List. Instead of looking forward to the time ahead of you and listing how you will fill it, you look behind you to time past and note how you did fill it. On a Friday afternoon, my Ta-Da List may include things like, “Finally made appointment with allergist.” “Took a brisk walk two consecutive days in the midst of feeling unmotivated and fatigued.” “Engaged with social media to share my work.” “Reached out to so-and-so.” “Delivered X training.” “Took that nap I really needed.” 

My 2018 Ta-Da List includes: I got out of the house more with my family for local adventures. I spoke my truth more frequently, even though it often felt terrifying. I checked myself when I could have gotten defensive and checked out. I experimented and took some risks I wouldn’t have taken in prior years. I wrote on a regular basis, which brought me joy, a sense of accomplishment, and connection with strangers with whom my writing resonated. I loved the heck out of my children. I created, launched, and successfully ran an online course to help others own their value. I persisted in the face of a chronic pain condition. I took some down-time with minimal guilt.

(The funny thing is that a lot of my Ta-Das never lived on any of my To-Do lists!)

I encourage you to take ten minutes right now to jot down your 2018 Ta-Da List. I list below some questions that can help you get your Ta-Da List started:

  1. What did you do this past year that you hadn’t done the year before?
  2. What were your top two challenges this past year, and how did you face them, cope with them, and work through them?
  3. What did you do this year that made you feel happy?
  4. What did you get recognition from others for doing?
  5. For what do you wish you had received recognition?
  6. What goals did you meet?
  7. What new priorities upended your plans, and how did you deal with them?
  8. What lessons did you learn this past year?

So stop thinking about what you didn’t get to this year when you should be marveling at the sheer breadth and depth of what you have created and accomplished, with due recognition to the unexpected tasks that magically appeared and the challenges that materialized to obstruct your path. How did you persist? What did you resist? When did you simply and bravely exist? (Some years, just surviving is the predominant Ta-Da, and that is more than okay.)

Doing this exercise will help you honor you and remind you of your resilience, your capacity for excellence, and your adaptability. By taking this crucial moment to shift from a To-Do to a Ta-Da mentality, you can end the year on the up-note you deserve and start off 2019 from a place of greater power and peace. 

Cheers to that, and cheers to you! I am raising my proverbial glass half-full in your honor.

(This piece was originally published on The Belong Blog on December 19, 2018.)

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