I've found that a common problem with the elements of the GTD system is the ambiguity/lack of sharp edges to really great concepts, which makes implementation difficult. One that has me a little stumped is how best to use the Someday/Maybe list. This post from a yahoo group related to GTD that I frequent highlights part of my problem:
>"Once GTD got rolling for me, I called it 'someday/maybe" just
>because I was instructed to, but that title always sounded a little
>too untrustworthy to me, so I changed it to "incubate" because it
>makes me feel like things are bubbling and working on their own in
>there while I'm not paying particular attention to them -- and as
>we've discussed, that's exactly what IS happening." - Deb.
Now, here's my thought process: A "Someday/Maybe" list suggests "ideas/activities I might like to consider someday, maybe" or "possibilities for the future". Notice the uncertainty element: this is just a repository for cool ideas, it seems to me at least.
On the other hand, an "Incubation" list suggests ideas/activities that I /definitely do/ intend to follow through on, but am just:
i) unsure on how to act on currently, or
ii) allowing to develop: either subconsciously in my own mind, or by the gradual aggregation of other ideas, which I then record.
Or, to take it from another angle: they are ideas which, by being listed here and periodically reviewed, enter into your reticular activation filter, which can start to pick out and accumulate the appropriate ideas/stimulus to help you achieve that goal.
Moreover, some of the ideas on a Someday/Maybe list are quite grand in scope or ambitiousa visit to Bora-Bora, taking up a language, for example), but also lumped in here are potential mundane projects that don't necessarily have to be done (clean the garage, repaint the kitchen). Similarly, some of these things are pleasurable things to do, or pastimes; others chores. You can see this from a snapshot of the headings that are currently under my Someday/Maybe list (where there is plenty of room for improvement, hence this post):
-[-] Someday / Maybe
-[+] Things to Read
-[+] Possible Projects / Actions
-[+] Places to Visit
-[+] Films/Programmes to Watch
-[+] Potential Purchases
-[+] Skills to Learn
-[+] Ideas for the Future
The problems arise from how MUCH different stuff is being lumped under this list, which I find makes reviewing it and working with it difficult.
- The big dream, "Someday/Maybe" things don't require reviewing very often - after all, I don't need to see my potential holiday plans every week if it's not feasible at this point of my life. These are nice to look over when your situation becomes more amenable to them, or for fantasising, or for broadening your horizons about what you might want to do (or helping you look at your work from a higher level / altitude, to use Dave's analogy).
- Possible projects/actions... those I need to see every week, as I might take those on, or might not.
- Potential films to watch or books to read are recreational: I want to see these when I am burnt-out with work or bored with it, or have a spare slot. I don't really need to see them during the weekly review at all.
- And - this is critical- if I lump actionable items (incubating) with non-actionable items (that potential business project that is totally unfeasible at this period of my life) then I'll go "numb" to those items. An item incubates differently depending on whether you've defined it as "something I'm thinking about and intend to do", or "something I could do, if circumstances are amenable".
So my questions are:
- How do you work with your someday/maybe list? do you "incubate" items in it, or do you file away great ideas? Or do you do both? Does mixing things you /might/ do with things you /will/ do, but /don't know how to yet/, work for you?
- As a development of this, what are your best practices re: Someday/Maybe lists? How do you categorise (if you do categorise) items that fit under it? How do you get around the problem that elements of it need reviewing more often than others?
Ofc, it goes without saying that if I'm misinterpreting or confusing elements of the system, you should set me to rights!