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Back to Basics: Waiting For Someday/Maybe

Back to Basics: Waiting For Someday/Maybe

Someday...

    I mentioned before that I don’t use contexts as recommended by David Allen. However, there are two kinds of lists he recommends that I do use, and get a ton of use from. These are the “Someday/Maybe” list and the “Waiting For” list.

    Did you ever think that someday…?

    The Someday/Maybe list is a catch-all for all your crazy ideas and whacked-out plans that you just don’t have time to pursue today. Have an idea for a great novel, but need to learn how to write a novel first? Put it on the Someday/Maybe list. Notice that your kitchen is looking a little “retro”, and not in a good way? Add “remodel kitchen” to the Someday/Maybe list.

    Someday/Maybe acts as a record and as a set of triggers. As a record, it helps you hold onto ideas that are a little bit (or a lot!) outside the range of your normal day-to-day life. You aren’t going to go remodel your kitchen right this instant. You aren’t even going to start planning to remodel the kitchen right this instant. It’s just an idea, something you thought about that might be nice to do, someday. Maybe.

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    As a set of triggers, the Someday/Maybe list gives you something to think about when you have a few minutes free to consider your goals from a “wider picture” perspective. Maybe you’ve just finished a big project and are trying to think of what you might take on next. Or maybe you just came into some money – like a big tax return or a slot machine jackpot – and you’re trying to figure out how to spend it. You scan down your list and notice that, a few months ago while you were preparing the avocado dip for your Superbowl party, you thought about remodeling the kitchen. Now that you’ve got some extra cash in your pocket, you can start thinking about how you’d like your kitchen to look.

    Although this isn’t “orthodox” GTD, you can also work a little from your Someday/Maybe list. In theory, you’re supposed to move things from Someday/Maybe to your active projects list and start creating next actions when you “activate” a Someday/Maybe item, but as you scan your list, you might well start coming up with ideas – a plot point for your imagined novel, a color scheme for your future kitchen. Go ahead and write those ideas into your Someday/Maybe list with the original idea, or break the item out to its own page in your notebook (or the equivalent in whatever system you’re using to keep your lists) and start brainstorming.

    If you find yourself planning steps that are actually immediately doable, or that you’ve already done, then it’s time to move your ideas off the Someday/Maybe list and into your active projects. But if you’re still daydreaming about the future, keep them separated – psychologically, you’ll know these aren’t goals, these are just things to think about now nad again, and someday, maybe, they’ll be goals.

    Wait for it…!

    Waiting For is also a future-oriented list. It’s a place to record all the things you are, as the name suggests, waiting for. Anything you’re waiting for, especially things you need to move to the next step of a project, goes on the list – a book you ordered online, a report from a colleague that you need to finish your own report, anything that you’re expecting and need to keep track of.

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    The reason to list this stuff is that if you’re waiting for something, it shouldn’t be on your mind. There’s nothing you can do about it until it gets to you, right? And yet, they shouldn’t be totally forgotten, either. What if that book doesn’t arrive within 10 days? What if your co-worker goes on a three-day drinking binge instead of compiling the data you need for your end-of-quarter report?

    Having a separate list of this stuff can free you from keeping it on your mind while also giving you the opportunity to periodically scan through your list to see if there’s anything you should, in fact, be worried about. If it’s been 10 days and that book isn’t there yet, you need to check your order status – maybe it’s back-ordered. Or maybe it’s lost and you need to contact the bookseller.

    A good Waiting For entry has several elements:

    • The thing you’re waiting for,
    • The source of that thing,
    • The project you need it for,
    • The date that you put it on the list, and
    • The date that you expect it.

    So, for instance, you order a book for an essay you’re writing on August 12th; it ships in 2-3 days and you’ve requested 2-day delivery. So you can expect to receive it by the 19th (accounting for the weekend). You’re Waiting For entry might look like this:

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    • “Things You Need to Know About Salamanders” from Amazon for salamander essay. 8/12, due 8/19.

    That gives you enough information to know a) when to complain, b) when not to worry, c) what project you can’t work on until the book comes, and d) what to do with it when it arrives.

    What I do

    Because I don’t keep contextually-organized lists, I don’t actually keep separate lists for Someday/Maybe and Waiting For. Instead, I preface every Someday/Maybe item with “S/M” and every Waiting For item with “W/F”. In my online task manager, I can easily sort those items together by alphabetizing the list.

    S/M items aren’t dated, so they sort to the bottom of the list when I’m looking at my list by date. W/F items are given a due date matching the day I expect to get it, so they’ll come up with the rest of my actions on that day and I can follow up, if necessary.

    Although I add stuff to both lists as I think of things, I also pay special attention to them when I do my reviews. I strike off W/F items that I’m no longer waiting for, and add new ones I might have forgotten to add during the week. I also take a look at my Someday/Maybe items to see if there’s anything I’ve started paying a lot more attention to, or anything I’d like to start working on. And I think of new things to put on there – since Someday/Maybe is a “no-pressure” list, I feel comfortable putting things down that I very likely won’t do. Often the ideas feed into something down the road that I couldn’t have foreseen, even if the original idea never comes into fruition.

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    Don’t wait for someday!

    Start setting up a way to keep track of Someday/Maybe and Waiting For items now. Even if you’re not sold on the idea of task lists for everyday use, having a place to keep track of stuff you’re waiting on and another to keep track of your wildest thoughts can be a great help on their own.

    Maybe some of our readers have their own ways of keeping track of this stuff that they’d like to share? Drop us a note in the comments!

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    Last Updated on October 15, 2019

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

    Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

    There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

    Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

    Why we procrastinate after all

    We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

    Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

    Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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    To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

    If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

    So, is procrastination bad?

    Yes it is.

    Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

    Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

    Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

    It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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    The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

    Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

    For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

    A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

    Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

    Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

    How bad procrastination can be

    Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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    After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

    One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

    That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

    Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

    In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

    You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

    More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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    8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

    Procrastination, a technical failure

    Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

    It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

    It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

    Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

    Reference

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