should you have a someday maybe list

Should you have a ‘Someday/Maybe’ list? [PMP #117]

In last week’s blog post about self-doubt, one of the ideas I touched on was whether you should have a ‘Someday/Maybe’ list or not. To recap, in case you missed it, my argument is that:

When you adopt this mentality (turning “someday” into “today”), every decision you make comes down to a simple decision on “am I going to do this”, and “if so, when?”. There is no middle ground. In fact, I think having a “someday” list can be dangerous as it creates a distraction and makes you feel inadequate because you now have a list of all this stuff you haven’t done. I can’t tell you how often I work with clients who have task lists with hundreds of ideas and to-dos on them. All these things they’d like to do but aren’t important right now and you just end up overwhelmed and the self-doubt creeps in.

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After talking about this, I shared the idea with my Private Slack group and received some really interesting responses:

The last point is really accurate. So often I too come up with ideas that I think are amazing. Then, after thinking about them for a while I realise they’re actually not as good as I first thought.

In this post, I’d like to explore the idea of a ‘Someday/Maybe’ list a bit more.

'Someday/Maybe' lists can be a massive distraction (and a waste of time) unless you use them properlyClick To Tweet

What is a ‘Someday/Maybe’ list?

First, let’s step back a bit and identify the purpose of a ‘Someday/Maybe’ list.

As far as I can tell, the idea of a ‘Someday/Maybe’ list originates back to David Allen’s Getting Things Done method. To quote David Allen:

It can be useful and inspiring to maintain an ongoing list of things you might want to do at some point but not now. This is the “parking lot” for projects that would be impossible to move on at present but that you don’t want to forget about entirely. You’d like to be reminded of the possibility at regular intervals.”

This makes a lot of sense and in the past, I’ve tested different ways of maintaining a Someday/Maybe list. A typical ‘Someday/Maybe’ list will include things like ideas you’ve had but haven’t started, books you’d like to read or tasks/projects you’d like to start.

However, David Allen goes on to say:

“You must review this list periodically if you’re going to get the most value from it. I suggest you include a scan of the contents in your Weekly Review”

And this is where I see a lot of people tripping up (myself included).

This issue is that we don’t review our Someday/Maybe nearly often enough; as a result, the list gets ever longer and harder to manage.

The case for a ‘Someday/Maybe’ list

Some of the benefits of a ‘Someday/Maybe’ list include:

  • It’s a way of getting ideas out of your head and freeing up mental bandwidth.
  • Separating your current priorities from less urgent ideas and projects until a more suitable time arises.
  • Making sure you don’t forget about things you’d like to do/read/watch.
  • They force you to think about an idea before starting it. A member of my Slack group made this point and I agree that the Someday/Maybe list can be a good way of screening ideas.

I agree with all this logic. But lately, I’ve been thinking differently and have questioned the ‘Someday/Maybe’ list.

The case against a ‘Someday/Maybe’ list

Here are some of the reasons why I think a ‘Someday/Maybe’ list isn’t such a good idea:

  • Firstly, it creates a distraction from your “one thing”. Books like Essentialism and The One Thing preach the importance of focusing your energy on a few essential tasks and disregarding everything that’s non-essential. You could argue that the ‘Someday/Maybe’ list is really just a list of non-essential things.
  • As I said above, because we don’t check out Someday/Maybe lists enough, they usually get longer and longer. If anything, this just makes us feel more overwhelmed and guilty for not doing enough. But if these things aren’t important in the first place, we shouldn’t feel bad for not doing them.
  • Because we usually don’t do the stuff on our Someday/Maybe list, having one in the first place is a waste of time.

So, there are clearly some pros and cons to having a someday maybe list. So what should you do?

What should you do?

As I said in last week’s blog post, the first thing you need to ask yourself is “am I going to do this”, and “if so, when?”. This forces you to plan and take action rather than procrastinate on an idea.

If you are going to keep a ‘Someday/Maybe’ list, there are a few things you should do to make sure it’s maintained and put to good use:

  • Keep it minimal. Set a limit like 15 ideas/projects max. Don’t include every idea, task and project you can think of. The someday list isn’t an excuse for not prioritising. You shouldn’t be adding things to the list if they are of low importance.
  • Prune your list. If you have a 15 item limit and you want to add something new to the list, force yourself to take something off. This forces you to evaluate ideas against one another so your list will contain only the best ideas and projects.
  • Review your list regularly. As David Allen says, the list is only valuable if it’s reviewed regularly. Check your list once a week and remove any of the bad ideas or put the good ones into action. If you do follow this rule along with the previous one, you’ll free up space for new ideas.

If you follow the rules above, I think you can enjoy the benefits of a ‘Someday/Maybe’ list without letting it become a distraction or a chore to manage.

What do you think? Do you have a Someday/Maybe list? Let me know your thoughts or tactics in the comments below!