To-do lists suck!
They’re often a list of other people’s priorities. Tasks get added at a faster rate than those finished leaving you with a constant feeling of incompleteness. This affects your sense of accomplishment and ability to “turn off” from work.
To-do lists are helpful for capturing ideas and open loops. This is great for getting things out of your head quickly and reducing stress. However, the lack of prioritization makes them less usable the larger they get.
As your list grows, you switch from executor to task manager. You look for tools and software. You waste time categorizing and organizing and spend more time managing the tasks on your list than actually doing them.
When you have a long to-do list, it becomes easy to procrastinate. This is because the sheer tasks are overwhelming. Also, there are many tasks with different degrees of scope that are mixed in together.
A better solution is The Someday/Maybe list. It allows you to capture what’s in your head quickly (reduces friction). Prioritization happens separately, typically in a daily review, where you’ll choose what’s most impactful action items. It also removes the commitment associated with the tasks on your list. This reduces overwhelm because it increases your feeling of freedom of choice. The commitment comes in the daily review when you choose what you’ll actually execute.
How to Use a Someday/Maybe List
Instead of using a To Do List, work from a Someday/Maybe list. This serves as a Master list for capturing thoughts while separating the decision-making from the act of executing. This frees your mind from overwhelm and the nagging feeling of incompleteness.
Tasks and open loops sit on your list until you decide to turn them into actionable items. This frees up valuable bandwidth and reduces stress and overwhelm. It also removes friction which makes it a system you’ll stick with.
Here’s the process:
- Whenever you have an idea or task that pops into your head, capture it.
- As requests come in via email, work, etc, add those to your Someday/Maybe list.
- Use a centralized tool to capture everything - I use the Things App, but it can be a simple notebook.
- Once a week, go through your list and select your top 3 priorities.
- Every day, go through your weekly list and choose your top 3 priorities.
- Complete your most impactful task before lunch
- Crush the day!
The Someday/Maybe list is a great option for managing tasks while reducing stress. It keeps things flexible while leaving your big decisions for your daily review.