Reviewing Your Someday List: 5 Essential Questions

Reviewing Your Someday List

When you have too many things in a backlog and keep adding to it, something will eventually give. We don’t have infinite time and attention, and we can’t keep expecting that we can add to a backlog infinitely. Today we look at 5 essential questions for reviewing your someday list.

Someday List = Balloon

Your someday list is very much like a balloon. If you keep adding gas to a balloon, it will expand. Once it reaches its maximum expansion, though, the pressure of the gas inside keeps increasing until the force of the gas inside overpowers the force of the balloon itself, and an explosion happens.

This can also be equated to Boyle’s Law, which states that the pressure times the volume is a constant for a gas at a steady temperature. Either the pressure increases as you add more, or the volume increases, and eventually, well, bang!

(If you want an example of this sort of pressure/volume question, see the answer to “Is Hell Endothermic or Exothermic?)

Weeding Things Out During Transfer

I’ve been through many versions of my someday list. Usually I do it when I switch the storage. I’ve moved from Bonsai to Text to Evernote to OneNote and currently reside in Trello.

One thing I have realized about this process is that it is important to do it more than once every 2-3 years. I try to keep the list pruned by going through it every other month to make sure that what I have on the list is truly what I want to do.

Reviewing Your Someday List

When I review my list, I use five criteria to help me sort through the items.

1. Do I still need/want to do this?

Often times things stay on the list because we assume that if we wanted to do it once, we will always want to do it. This is not the case. The someday list is also known as the “someday/maybe” list, and that “maybe” is important.

If you put something on the list, it may not seem like a good idea a few months later. For instance, one of the items on my past list was to snorkel at Haunama Bay in Hawaii. But as I prepared, I realized that the anxiety bordering on terror that I feel from snorkeling made this unlikely to be a good experience for me. I didn’t know about the reaction to snorkeling when I put the item on my list, but it became a large factor in removing it.

Deciding on needing or wanting to do something is a good way to narrow down the list. We should be careful that the list does not become, to quote Anne of Green Gables, “a graveyard of buried hopes.”

2. How likely am I to get to this in the next few years?

Months turn quickly into a year. One year turns quickly into five. The passage of time means that there are many things on the list that may linger on for a long time. This long wait time has a direct impact on the feasibility of the item.

My crafts backlog on my list is enough to keep me busy for at least the next five years. As I weed through the items I have to ask myself if I am likely to get through it in the next few years. If the answer is no, then I have to ask myself if I really want to do it.

I’ve heard it said that just as your cells completely change every seven years, your whole life changes in the same amount of time. Keeping projects on the list from a past self seems futile.

3. How long has the project been on the list?

Along with figuring if you are going to get to it, it’s important to look at how long the item has been on the list. If you haven’t gotten to it in five years, what are the chances that you are ever going to get to it?

I had projects on my list that were put there when my daughter was really small. These included making a set of stuffed zoo animals for her. She’s 19 now, and I haven’t gotten to it. I have even less of a motivation to do them now because even though she would appreciate them, they will just be decorative.

There have been other projects that have survived the multiple transfers that I realized I was keeping on the list because they ad always been on the list. There was a task on the list to finish an early manuscript. This is the first fiction book I ever attempted and the plot is trite, the characters two-dimensional, and the setting unrealistic. I never want to revisit it or even attempt to save it. It served its purpose in helping me work out how I approach writing, and teaching me how to do a daily writing session. But it was time to let it go.

Not all projects need to be completed. It could be that the project has served its purpose and needs to be removed.

4. Can you still get materials for the project?

It is not always possible to do a project in your current geographical area or with the materials available to you. Looking at projects to see if they are still feasible is important.

I had made a blanket for a good friend of mine that called for a specific type of novelty yarn for parts. I wanted to make another one of these blankets for myself, but by the time I got around to it the novelty yarn was no longer in production. After determining I didn’t want to substitute because it would greatly change the quality of the finished piece, I removed the project from my list.

Another project that had been on my list for a long time was to plant rhubarb and make rhubarb pies in the summer. This was something I had grown up with, and wanted to do again. It turns out that there is a reason no one makes rhubarb pies here – rhubarb doesn’t grow in my zone. So this one came off the list again.

If it’s not possible to get the materials you need for a project, what is the point of keeping it on the list?

5. How does this rank with other projects of this type?

Ah, ranking. Right up next to estimating, ranking seems to be the hardest things for people to do. But if you can rank your projects among the groups, you can ask yourself if the projects at the bottom of the ranking are something you want to tackle.

It’s easier, I find, to rank things when instead of using the standard 1,2,3, I use Fibonacci numbers. This leaves more space between the numbers and gives less chance of a collision when used with other factors.

When I ranked all of my projects, I found that making a water fountain fell at the bottom of all the yard improvements I had on the list. When put up against all of the other projects in the yard improvements, I found that I considered everything else more do-able or had more return on investment (tangible or not). So the water fountain came off the list.

By ranking, you don’t have to say why something ranks higher than another, but you can use your own internal metric to decide what is at the bottom of the pile.

These five questions will help you keep your Someday list in a manageable state. And when the list is not a landfill, you are more likely to act on the items in it.