Liziwe Ndalana: How my life changed for the better when I said goodbye to my to-do list

Ticking items off on a to-do list is a habit that is hard to break, until you find a better way to hold yourself accountable for what you need to do. 

Liziwe, BrightRock, Change Exchange

By Liziwe Ndalana

I was reading an article online when I first learned about the idea of an “accountability journal”. I really liked it, so I started one for myself. Instead of writing down a list of things to do each morning, you use an accountability journal to make a list of things you accomplish during the day.

Generally, I’m not a rule follower. I like going with the flow, tackling tasks as I go along. This does not always work in my favour as I get sidetracked. I run a laundry business, which means I can’t predict how my day will go. Some days are busy, and some days are completely quiet.

This idea of accountability journaling is refreshing, as I no longer feel the pressure of starting my day with a long to do list. It has also helped me shed the guilt that I should look busy through my long list.

Instead, I now make a mental note of important things to do, and important meetings to attend. I capture these as accomplishments for the day.

I’m able to see clearly what I do with my time on a daily basis. This is difficult when you do not have to clock-in or a going-home time. This forces me to weigh up the importance of the tasks, instead of how many of them I’ve done.

I no longer rush from one task to the other, or this meeting to that meeting just so I can tick off my to do list. I’m totally okay with attending one meeting, or doing one task if it’s important enough, and doing nothing for the rest of the day.

I no longer work hard just to feel or look productive. I found that it’s easy to get sucked into all kinds of less important tasks, which may look important and urgent at the time. This system keeps me on track with my goals, especially for the business.

Read also: Liziwe Ndalana: The smoothies were a failure, but now I’m washing my way to fortune

I recently hired someone to help me in the business for a few hours a day. Again, this forces me to do whatever I do with clear a focus and purpose. I cannot be away from the business for longer than five hours, otherwise it costs me money.

This has become another productivity-boosting tool for me. I’m learning the value of time. I constantly have to assess the importance of a meeting, task or event. I no longer attend any event just because I can or have the time. I have to weigh in the benefits first, more importantly, if it adds value to my business.

While I still need to have systems in place, like the accounting software for the finances, this is my system for now and it works.

My accountability journal is not only a long list of things I accomplished, it is also a way of re-visiting goals I may have abandoned. It helps me to track my finances. Simple things like printing out my bank statement to see where and what I spend most of my money on, or underlining that debit order I do not recognise is no longer a daunting task, but an exciting one. This is what makes this kind of reversed daily planning work for me.

Each morning I look forward to the day ahead, as I mentally scribble what to do. This makes me look forward to the following day, as I’m motivated by the things I accomplished the previous day. This has become a motivator for me, because now I look forward to smashing my to-do-list at night.

This is confidence-boosting as it enhances my productivity levels. While I’m not always excited to capture my daily accomplishments each night, especially after a long day, I force myself to keep track of what’s happening. I am accountable only to myself, and that has made all the difference to me when it comes to getting things done.

*You can learn the secrets of starting your own accountability journal over here:

  • Liziwe is a content writer who started out with personal finance as a special focus, covering topics like banking; insurance; debt management; savings; investing, etc. She’s also covered topics like #fintech, online payments and has written extensively on entrepreneurship and SMMEs in the South African context. Based in Cape Town, Liziwe recently entered the SMME-sector herself when she quit her full time job to start a laundry business in Nyanga. Liziwe’s an avid reader and outdoor enthusiast, advocate for the education and development of the Black girl child, particularly the girl child.
  • This article first appeared on the Change Exchange, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.