I simply love the concept of a Someday/Maybe list. It is useful, it is simple and it is powerful. At least, it can be if used properly!

A couple of weeks ago, during one of my weekly review sessions, I discovered that I had gradually started to (ab)use my Someday/Maybe list (again) as a dumping ground and graveyard for a lot of unwanted or impossible “projects”, or even for pieces of information that should be stored in my reference system.

I realized that my Someday/Maybe list, which should be a source of inspiration for future projects, was slowly becoming an Unlikely/Never list, which made me feel uncomfortable every time I looked at it!

I have managed to get my Someday/Maybe list back under control and use it the way it was meant to be. Let me share 3 tips with you on how to clean up your Someday/Maybe list and also on how to prevent it from becoming a Unlikely/Never list (again).

First of all, it doesn’t hurt to remember what the Someday/Maybe list is supposed to contain in order to be really effective. This automatically defines what it should NOT contain.

An inspirational Someday/Maybe list should contain things that you’re not sure you want to commit to. It should basically be an inventory of creative imaginings, ranging from projects “on hold” to vacation ideas, books to read, and so on.

This means it should NOT contain items that you are sure you will never commit to, or items that should be tossed or filed in your reference system. Don’t make it into a pile of “stuff”!

1. Cleaning up: throw your Someday/Maybe list into your in-basket
The most rigorous and thorough way to clean up your polluted Someday/Maybe list is to simply throw it into your in-basket, ready to be processed and organized into your GTD system. Look at each and every item on your list, one by one and simply process it like you would process other “stuff”. What is it? Is it actionable? If so, what is the next action? Is it a multi-step action? You know the drill, just follow the regular GTD workflow. Mind you, this only works if you apply tip #2 also!

2. Fix the leak in the Process and Organize phases
The reason my (and perhaps your) Someday/Maybe list became polluted in the first place, is because there is a leak in the Process and/or Organize phase in your GTD workflow. If your Someday/Maybe list contains actionable items or actual projects or pieces of information that should be stored in your reference system, for instance, this means you haven’t been strict enough in deciding what to do with the “stuff” in your in-basket. While processing and organizing your “stuff”, keep in mind what I said above about what a Someday/Maybe list should and should NOT contain. Many times items that wind up on your Someday/Maybe list really should be tossed, tickled or defined as a project.
To further pinpoint the leak in your GTD system and find out how to fix it, I strongly suggest reading my post about How To: Fix Leaks In Your GTD System, especially about the Process and Organize phases.

3. Create a rule for transforming Someday/Maybe items into Projects
To prevent my Someday/Maybe list from becoming a graveyard for possibly creative and inspiring projects, I have created a rule for myself. During my weekly review I do not only review my Someday/Maybe list, but I also force myself to pick 3 items and transform them into actual items on my Projects list. This effectively keeps my Someday/Maybe list from growing indefinitely and it helps me to realize my dreams and goals, instead of postponing some more! Your rule may be different, but the point is to have a rule, an agreement with yourself to regularly transform Someday/Maybe items into real Projects that you are committed to making progress on!