Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
After bumping into the Four Laws Of Simplicity, I realized that they can be applied not only to physical stuff, but also the aspects of every productivity system. In this series, we have already talked about applying it to “stuff”, as well as calendars, task lists, reference material and projects. Now in the last article of this series, we’ll take a look at how to apply them to someday/maybe lists.
The Four Laws Of Simplicity
Let’s start out with a review of the four laws:
- Collect everything in one place.
- Choose the essential.
- Eliminate the rest.
- Organize the remaining stuff neatly and nicely.
It’s fairly straightforward, right?
What Is A Someday/Maybe List?
The Someday/Maybe list is part of David Allen’s Getting Things Done system. It provides a place to keep projects that you might want to do, or that you want to do someday, without having it cloud the picture of what you are committed to doing right now.
The theory is that if you are not willing or able to work on something right now, it goes on your someday/maybe list.
But If You Keep Putting Stuff In…
My main problem with the someday/maybe list is that I don’t have a good system for getting things out of there into the real working list. I refuse to go through all 200+ items every week to see if there is something in there I want or need to do. So my someday/maybe list is in dire need of cleaning/pruning/truncation.
Applying The Laws
For me, applying the 4 laws of simplicity to the someday/maybe list is going to yield the biggest results. My thoughts are to get that list down to a realistic level by examining not only the tasks, but how long they have been on the list and why they are on there to begin with.
The first step is to gather all of these projects and ideas into one place. I am lucky in that I did this exercise years ago, and am pretty good about keeping it up.
When I did my first someday/maybe list, though, I had to look in several places in order to find where I have kept the projects. These included:
- Web bookmarks
- The craft stash
I also took a walk around my home and yard to find the places where I wanted to change or improve or repair something.
All of these items went into a single list.
To clean out my someday/maybe list, I first started with looking at how long something had been on there. For things that were more than 4 years old, I had to ask myself if I was really committed to doing them, or if the items was on there simply out of habit.
The next thing I looked at was why the item was on the list to begin with. Was it because I was trying to make myself into something else? Was it because someone said that I should do it? Was it because I wanted to do it, but just didn’t have the time at the moment?
Next I look at relevance. Does the thing I wanted to do still exist? (Many web links end up on my someday/maybe list, only to have me find out later that the site is gone) Is there better technology? Does it need to be upgraded?
The final criteria I looked at was the return results. Was there going to be any payback on this item? Was it a definite payback, such as learning a foreign language so that I could take a trip? Or was it because I was simply curious about something? Would the goal be met better in a different way?
For any of those things that are too old and I haven’t gotten around to them, they get deleted.
For those things that someone said I “should” do, if they are not relevant or have a payback, they get deleted.
For those things that I was simply curious about, I do a quick search on the web to learn more, and if I am satisfied, they get deleted.
It is hard for me to do this. I always feel like I will be missing out on something. But as I have found out, I can’t keep everything.
Next up is organization. I have found that my someday/maybes can be divided into two large categories, and from there into smaller. The big categories are “blog” and “not blog”.
In the “not blog” category I break it into the following areas:
- Home Computer
- Simplify Life
It’s fairly easy to decide what areas the item goes into. If it is a recipe to be tried, it goes into Food. If it is a trip I want to take, it is Adventure.
By breaking them down into the various categories, I am able to quickly find everything that is similar and look them over.
I also can see how many items are in a given category. If the craft category gets above 20 items, I know I need to cull some things.
Don’t Keep A Backup
One of the key points to my organizing the Someday/Maybe is that I don’t keep a backup of the things that I have removed. I did this for a while and found that it complicated things.
Why? Because I would go through the deleted items list and move things back into the Someday/Maybe. This sort of waffling did not give me forward progress.
When I went through my someday/maybe list following the steps above, I was able to get rid of 50% of the items. That brings the list down to about 125. I will keep applying these techniques as time goes on so that I can actually have a hope of doing some of the things on the list!
Have you simplified your someday/maybe? Or perhaps you don’t use one and would like to tell us why? Share below.
Photo by JD Hancock. Licensed under Creative Commons.