Justin Jacoby Smith is an organizer, web geek, Buddhist, and poet.

on the value of echoes

I've kept a Someday/Maybe list, on and off, since college. Back when I was juggling a 20 hour class week with a 2 hour commute and a full-time customer service day job, I needed *just enough* of a productivity system to get my classwork done, keep my job, and stay sane in the process. I stole a few bits and pieces from David Allen's "Getting Things Done" to help me stay on top of things, like context-sensitive ToDo lists and the do/defer/delegate framework. The most enduring piece, though, turned out to be the Someday/Maybe list. In Allen's GTD system it's a place for projects you'd like to start, but for some reason can't quite yet. It's supposed to be a big conceptual bucket for things as small as "learn how to change my oil" or big as "climb Mount Everest"--the sole uniting factor is that if it's an idea that you'd like to act on someday, but can't do it now, the Someday/Maybe file becomes a place to capture it.

The key to the file's usefulness, and the bit of magic that prevents it from being a hole for unfulfilled hopes and dreams, is that you're supposed to check it regularly to see if any of the items on it are now feasible. Once a (week/month/season) you take a fresh look at the thing, top to bottom, and ask yourself if your life has room for anything on it. Ask yourself what's on the list that you can take steps to carry out this week. And so forth.

What I've found interesting, though, is that as I've stopped and started my use of a Someday/Maybe list over the last 6 years, certain items recur. Wading through old hard drives I've stumbled across a half-dozen abandoned "s-m.txt" files, and the same sorts of projects appear on the lists across the years.

-"learn R." -"learn to program in R." -"read R for informatics." -"read data mining in R."

One of the benefits of taking a regular birds-eye view of your projects--and your life--is that you have the opportunity to recognize these sorts of patterns. You might even find that a persistent want to pursue certain kinds of projects reveals a deeper truth about what you want out of life.

But you don't even have to wait 6 years to figure this out--if you see yourself writing "write more poetry" on your list for months, maybe you ought to sit down and write some damn poetry instead of adding "write more poetry" to your list again. Pattern recognition is valuable, but only if the patterns you recognize lead to smarter and more fulfilling action.

Don't just write stuff down. Do it.

What projects go on your Someday/Maybe list? Do you see patterns trying to tell you something?