When it comes to time management strategies, writing a “to-do list” is a classic. But for some students, creating a “what I did” list is a better way to boost motivation, increase reflection, and reduce stress.
“To-Do” vs. “What I Did”
Many students prefer a to-do list to a weekly planner or monthly calendar because it is more targeted and straightforward, presenting a smaller scope of work.
However, for some students, even a to-do list might feel like too much. Sometimes time management strategies can increase a student’s anxiety and stress; they might feel like they are creating plans that they cannot live up to. Instead of feeling motivated by their plan, they are likely to feel overwhelmed and resist even getting started.
When traditional time management strategies cause more stress than success, consider trying “what I did” lists.
Focus on Accomplishments
Ending the day by writing a list of all that they’ve accomplished can be a powerful way to boost student productivity and motivation. Even if the list starts small, it represents real work and accomplishments.
Boost Motivation and Reflection
The main benefit of creating a list of accomplishments is that it can boost motivation. At the end of a long day, it can be easy to feel like one hasn’t accomplished anything. When students list what they’ve done, they can see just how much they’ve accomplished. This can help them to feel more motivated to keep working and to tackle new tasks the next day.
Listing accomplishments can also help students to reflect on their work, identifying the things they are doing well and the things they need to improve on. It’s a great way to measure progress and see how they’ve grown.
More Organization, Less Stress
Writing down accomplishments is also a less stressful way to keep students organized. By making a list of what they’ve done each day, students can easily see what tasks they’ve completed and what still needs to be done. This can help them prioritize their tasks for the next day and ensure they’re making progress on the most important tasks.
Making a “what I did” list is a simple practice that can help students who have struggled with traditional time management tools rethink their approach to getting work done. It’s an easy habit to start and can be a valuable tool for measuring progress and for staying motivated.
- Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director
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SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org
Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org