Want to Do Everything? You Need a Someday-Maybe List to Keep Track of It All

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man writing in book in coffee shop with laptop on table

What do you do when you want to do everything? Or try everything? When you have hundreds of ideas bubbling inside you but only 24 hours a day?

I get distracted by shiny objects all the time. A new book to read, a new hobby to try, a new project to take on, a new skill to learn.

All these shiny objects collect like stones in my shoe: rubbing at my toe, pressing into my heel, begging for my attention.

When you have many interests, it becomes hard to juggle them or give each the dedicated attention they need. I often end up:

  • trying to do everything at once and not prioritising
  • getting distracted by the next shiny object
  • not following through with what I say I will do
  • not finishing what I start or taking ages to finish (this article took four months to write)
  • worrying I’ll forget all my ideas and projects
  • not doing things very well
  • forgetting to do work or projects that I have to do

Can you relate?

One tool I’ve found that helps me prioritise and removes some of the distractions and overwhelm is the someday-maybe list.

What Do I Do When I Want to Do Everything? A Someday-Maybe List Will Help

Separate from your daily to-do list and current projects list, the someday-maybe list is a place to capture all those other ideas, tasks, and projects you want to take on but don’t have time for straight away.

It’s where you store all your shiny objects for someday. When you have time.

It’s a way of separating those projects that catch your interest from your daily tasks and responsibilities.

The someday-maybe list comes from David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. If you’re unfamiliar with the book, Allen outlines a productivity system (known as the GTDⓇ methodology) for, you guessed it, getting everything you need to do, done. 

First published in 2001, there’s a lot in this book that’s outdated, and the system, in my opinion, is overly complex. However, you can adapt and apply plenty of golden nuggets, and the someday-maybe list is one of them.

(If you’re interested in finding out more, check out the many communities of people who follow the system on Reddit and YouTube – it has a cult-like following).

If all you do is record your ideas, interests, and potential projects so you don’t worry about forgetting them, then the list has done its job.

However, you can also use your list to explore and expand your ideas. More than just a parking space, this is a place where you can:

  • Capture your thoughts so you don’t forget them
  • Collect resources and information about your ideas
  • Clarify the idea into a project (if you want to)
  • Consider if, how, and when you will action this idea
  • Create, i.e., action your idea if you decide it’s feasible

The someday-maybe list is a safe space to store and explore all those wonderful ideas, interests, and projects that catch your attention. Not every interest has to (or should) become a full-blown project, but this is where you can discover whether an idea has potential.

Benefits of Using a Someday-Maybe List

Part of the GTD system is that leaving all our to-dos rattling around in our brains is inefficient and stressful. Writing your tasks down in a safe space and having a system to review and do those tasks increases productivity and reduces overwhelm.

This has certainly been true for me. I wish they taught this stuff in school. Since adopting a task management system, I have felt a lot less stressed and have been more productive.

The average person juggles so much these days. Throw in dozens of interests on top of the everyday tasks, and overwhelm can be a constant companion.

So, the first benefit of having a someday-maybe list is that it reduces overwhelm. You’re capturing ideas, so you don’t need to worry about forgetting them, but you’re also making a conscious decision to put these ideas aside until later and focus on what’s important now. Even though I want to do everything at once, it’s not practical.

A someday-maybe list is a promise to yourself that you’ll look at your ideas when you have time.

It is also a safe space to explore your ideas without committing to them. A place to dabble, free from the critics of the world.

You can collect information, make notes, and explore ideas without committing to a full-blown project until you’re ready. If you’re ready.

You can go as deeply into an interest as you like, collecting information over time and revisiting ideas when time and enthusiasm allow.

Polymaths, generalists, and humble dilettantes need a safe place to explore their ideas, whether it’s a notebook or a digital file. Whatever your style, it is invaluable for those with many interests.

What to Put on Your Someday-Maybe List

Your someday-maybe list is a place to capture all the ideas and projects that excite you but that you don’t yet have time for. 

Things you might include:

  • books you want to read
  • movies you want to see
  • podcasts that catch your interest
  • courses you want to do
  • bucket list things you want to try
  • places you want to travel to
  • projects you want to start
  • hobbies you want to take up
  • ideas you have

To get the full benefit of keeping a someday-maybe list, it’s important to write a complete description of your ideas, so your future self will understand what the project is and why it’s on your list.

I have items on my list that I don’t remember what they mean. I wrote a one-word description that was meaningful at the time but means nothing now. To avoid the same mistake, spell out exactly what your idea or project is like you’re explaining it to someone else.

Include information like WHY you want to do or try something. You could also add the resources or time required to complete it. Or any relevant notes, inspiration clippings and necessary information to get started. This doesn’t have to happen all at once – with your ideas written down, you can come back to them whenever you have time.

What your list shouldn’t be is a way to make yourself feel bad about all the things you have yet to do. Or a way for others to criticise you (it’s ok to keep it private). Or an overwhelming list of projects (it’s ok to delete stuff – see reviewing your list below).

Where to Keep Your someday-maybe List

Let’s talk practicalities for a moment – where do you keep your someday-maybe list?

David Allen keeps his in folders and filing cabinets – very retro! 

For a long time, I tried using a variety of journals, but as much as I love writing with pen and paper, analogue didn’t work for me. So, I’m experimenting with a few apps to see which one jibes the best.

Da Vinci had his notebooks; John Locke had his commonplace books; Barbara calls it a scanner daybook, and others bullet journals. But as a digital native and a list person, I’ve found a digital someday-maybe list works best for me. Whether you choose a Da Vinci-like journal or a digital solution, the key is to play around and discover which works best for you.

The other thing that works for me is keeping my someday-maybe list separate from my current commitments, tasks, and projects. Otherwise, I quickly become overwhelmed and lose focus on what needs to be done.

Digital Someday-Maybe Options

An analogue system needs little explanation. Grab a notebook and pen, and you’re good to go. If you like drawing, use an art book. Try the bullet journal numbering system to keep track of ideas. Or leave several pages per idea for extra notes. Or you can use a loose-leaf binder to easily insert additional notes.

A digital tool has its advantages because it’s portable – most of us carry our phones everywhere, so we are always able to capture our ideas into our system.

A digital tool is easily expandable. That means you can attach notes and resources without running out of space.

A digital tool is also searchable, making it easy to find something when you need it, as long as you’ve named your files something meaningful to begin with.

Hundreds of digital notetaking, task management, file management, and project management tools are available, many of which are free. Because we all process things differently, it’s good to play around with them to see which works best for you.

Look for one that is easy to use and has the features you want. Here are just some of the options:

  • Evernote
  • Apple notes
  • Notion
  • Obsidian
  • ToDoist 
  • Google Drive
  • One note
  • Trello 
  • Asana
  • Click-up
  • Windows folders

Organising Your List (Optional)

There’s nothing wrong with creating a simple, unorganised list of all your interests. The point is you’ve got them out of your head and onto paper or device, so you can return your focus to the current task at hand, knowing you can revisit your ideas later.

For easy capture, I use ToDoist (and a simplified version of Carl Pullein’s time sector system) to keep a simple list of someday-maybe tasks. ToDoist has a widget for your phone, so you can easily add a task when it occurs to you.

projects in todoist

But I also keep a mirror someday-maybe folder in Evernote to expand ideas if I want to.

For example, I have ‘take a drawing course’ on my someday maybe list. And while there is a description box where I can add notes in ToDoist, having a folder in Evernote means I can clip courses from the internet to save for later.

Here are some other ways you could organise all the things you want to do.

If you use Evernote or a similar app, you could have a simple someday-maybe file (note) where you write all your ideas as a bulleted list. You could do the same thing in Asana or Trello with a someday-maybe board. 

Or you could create a someday-maybe folder in Evernote, each file/note being a different idea. For example, one note may be ‘books to read,’ another note could be ‘courses to take’, etc. 

Alternatively, you could have a ‘someday-maybe’ stack and a notebook called ‘books to read’ where you can quickly send screenshots or photos of books.

The great thing with an app like Evernote is your idea can start as a simple note and grow into a folder full of resources as you take on the project and gather reference materials.

It allows you to capture, clarify and properly “label” your ideas – irrespective of how unfeasible they are in the present moment.

Reviewing and Actioning Your Someday-Maybe List

A someday-maybe list is in danger of becoming a black hole of forgotten dreams if you don’t review it regularly. 

And if you don’t trust that it’s a safe place to store your ideas, you won’t use it.

So, it’s essential to look over your list periodically with the goal of either shifting a project from your someday-maybe list to your to-do list or permanently archiving an idea.

How often should you review your someday-maybe list?

It depends on how busy you are, how many things you already have on your plate, and what kind of things you put on your list, but at a bare minimum, you should review it yearly when you write out your yearly goals. 

Better yet, a monthly review will help you balance what you have to do and what you want to get done. Review your someday-maybe list and calendar and consider moving a task into your current projects list, blocking out time to do it. 

Alternatively, you can refer to your list when you have time or if you’re bored and looking for a new project.

When you review your list of ideas, projects, hobbies, or learning goals, ask:

  • Can any of these ideas be integrated into current interests and projects?
  • Can any of these ideas support current interests and projects?
  • Do I have time (can I block out time) to pursue any of these interests in the next month?
  • Do I have or can I get the resources needed to pursue these ideas? 

If you do decide to pursue an idea in your someday-maybe list, move it into your project list. I use the PARA organisation method for files and folders, so I would create a new subfolder in my ‘Projects’ folder.

using evernote for a someday-maybe list when you want to do everything

There are times when you’ll find you’re no longer interested in ideas on your list. Or they’re no longer relevant. 

When this happens, either delete the idea or archive it. Sometimes it can be hard to say goodbye to ideas, but you’ll trust and use your list more if you maintain its integrity. 

It’s easy to get distracted when you want to do everything. All the things pulling you in many directions, 

You can have your cake and eat it, too, by keeping a list of all the things you want to try and referring to your list when you have time. A digital someday-maybe list is a modern way to keep that list and explore your ideas.

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