When we don’t have time for something, we just defer it. David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done (GTD), calls those items Someday/Maybe Items; I call them “the things I’d like to get done if I had more time to get things done”.
The best way to get to those “I’ll do them later” items according to David is to set “ticklers”, ticklers are reminders or triggers that you set to “pop” when you reach a certain date in your calendar or when a certain condition or pre-requisite is met.
The problem with ticklers is that we treat them most of the time as mere suggestions, giving them less authority than “must do” actions. But, at least for me, they still carry the same amount of guilt when I fail to get them done. It’s not fun to review your tickler file only to reset your tickler to another future date, knowing full well, they most likely will never get done.
So how can you use those ticklers to really get those Someday items done or alternatively label them as non-important to ease our guilt trips?
#1 Put a self-destruct date on it
An excellent method I use to unclutter my lists is by putting a “self-destruct” date on them that once reached, removes them from my lists for good!
An unexpected thing happened when I started to use the self-destruct date on actions, I completed more “maybe” items because of the “pending doom” aura they had over their heads…call it the adrenaline rush you get before the gallows, you don’t want to see that item disappear into the abyss so you do everything you can to at least begin it.
Once the ball is rolling, it’s a normal action/project and should be treated that way.
#2 Create decision catalysts
On top of connecting my ticklers to the calendar, I like to connect them to a physical trigger, what I call anchors.
Action anchors are events, people or conditions that once met, transfer the Someday item to my action list. For instance, I have a fly fishing trip on my someday lists but I know that I’m looking to go with at least one friend. The anchor to make this happen is finding a friend to join me. By anchoring that friend to the fishing trip, it helps trigger a conscious decision to go fishing once I find the right friend to join me.
So anchor Someday items to certain situations or people and see them get done.
#3 General = Fail | Specific = Win!
Spending more time with the kids or adopting a healthier way of life is a description of a task that will never see the light of day. Why? Because it is too general!
Of course you’d like to spend more time with your kids and eat healthier, but those future projects require you to break them to smaller bite-sized actions, (…no pun intended). When the time comes to put your money where your mouth is, you won’t know where to start and therefore, you won’t start.
Try to break “spending more time with the kids” to:
– Pick them up from school instead of them taking the bus;
– Go with them to the movies every other Tuesday;
– Play soccer with Johnny on Saturdays.
The more specific the Someday/Maybe list items are the higher your conversion rate will be.
The most important thing to remember about your maybe items is to sleep on them, and never lose sleep because of them…the best way I know to do that is to get them done!