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The "I Did It" List

Have you ever gotten to the end of a busy (normal!) day without marking anything off your list and thought, “did I actually accomplish anything?” It’s so deflating.

One day, when I felt particularly overwhelmed, I wrote down what I had done, even though the items felt small and weren’t on my actual to-do list. Things like “responded to all new emails” or “checked in with a grieving friend.” Then I put a checkmark next to them, as if to reinforce to myself that I had done them. It seemed silly, but I felt a weight lift. It’s like my brain needed written confirmation that I really was productive. After realizing how much relief it provided, I continued writing things down that popped up and I accomplished, just so I could check them off. It still felt a little silly, but it worked for me, so I kept it up.

Some time later, I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal titled “The Productivity Boost Missing From Your To-Do List.” It turns out I’m not so weird after all (isn’t it nice to have that reminder sometimes?). The article explains that writing down what we’ve accomplished gives us a confidence boost. We all like the feeling of progress, and little wins give us the energy to accomplish more.

This idea translates to our home, work, and financial lives. We see this in our clients and in ourselves all the time. It’s easy to fixate on what we haven’t done -- the money we haven’t saved, the life insurance we still need, the estate documents we haven’t started. Those things still need to be done, but in our financial lives, just like every other area of our lives, we gain momentum if we give ourselves credit for what we have done. Those little wins, like deciding to fly coach, the coupon code we remembered to use, putting off a car upgrade for another year, or the amount we are saving in our 401(k) (even if we meant to increase it this year) are still worth noting. The idea isn’t to give ourselves an excuse for not doing what we need to do, but instead to remind ourselves of all we are doing and letting that give us the energy to tackle the next thing. No one likes to feel defeated, and feeling defeated impairs progress.

For the area of your life in which you feel behind, jot down what you have done—no matter how small—in addition to the things you still want to do. And remember, just like my realization that I’m not so weird after all, you’re not alone. Having someone to remind you of that and cheer you on, whether a financial advisor or trusted friend, can make a huge difference.

PYA Waltman Capital, LLC (“PYAW”) is an investment adviser registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. More information about PYAW’s investment advisory services can be found in its Form ADV Part 2, which is available upon request.  PYA-24-10

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