The Someday/Maybe List is a Lie

One of my goals for 2020 is to share more, and one of the ways I intend on doing this is to take photos more often and share them on Flickr. There’s even a daily-photo challenge on Micro.blog to help kickstart that challenge. And since I can just plug any RSS feed into Micro.blog to pull in content, and I can generate Flickr RSS feeds from a given tag, we’re golden! Just add the Flickr feed to Micro.blog, post one photo to Flickr daily with the tag photoblog, and it’ll get shared to Micro.blog (which then cross-posts to other platforms, like Twitter). Great!

Except, right now, Flickr search is broken, so getting a feed of my photos filtered by tag returns… nothing.

But! I can create a Glitch app that uses the Flickr API to pull in my photos, filter them by tag, and generate an RSS feed of them. Yeah, that duplicates the functionality of Flickr’s own built-in feed services, but hey, they’re broken, and I can make this pretty easily, right? And once search is fixed, I can just turn off the app. It’ll be a fun learning experience.

I’m in the middle of working on some other stuff right now. Those projects are far more important and/or time-sensitive, so I add this Flickr feed-generator app to my Someday/Maybe list in OmniFocus; it’s neither important nor time-sensitive. Someday/Maybe lists are a collection of “nice to haves” — a backlog of project that you maybe want to do, someday.

A better turn of phrase is the side-project graveyard, as we call these lists on the show.

Inflating the numbers

But the nature of this list, for me, is a little bit more insidious than that. As part of the weekly retrospective that I do, I go over my Someday/Maybe list, automatically bringing every one of those projects to the front of my attention. This routine signal boost makes sure these backlogged projects are kept on the radar.

I have never actually promoted anything from my Someday/Maybe list to an actual project that I tackle.

I have also almost never deleted an idea from my Someday/Maybe list, except during my annual purge.

I have demoted actual projects to my Someday/Maybe list.

I’ve been thinking about what this does to me. Here’s this list of projects that aren’t important or urgent enough to take on, but I’m reminded of them week after week. Hey, my system says, don’t forget about these things. And so, as I go through my week, my planning is distracted by these ideas. I could be more ruthless about deleting them from the list, but, the fact is: I’m a digital hoarder.

So, today, I deleted the Someday/Maybe list in OmniFocus.

Organic Growth

For myself, it’s probably better to ignore a new idea. I’m too easily pulled off course by the promise of something new and shiny. Going forward, if I think of something interesting to make or do, I’m going to push it aside.

If it eventually comes back, that’ll be interesting. But that’s not good enough — maybe I turn the idea over in my head a bit more, and write it down in my journal where I’ll only see it maybe another couple of times in the year, and then I’m going to push it away again.

But if it comes back to me a third time? That’s probably a sign. That’s maybe where you decide to create a project for it, either to tackle right away or sometime in the future. It’s planned, and it’s considered.

The ideas that pester you, that won’t leave you alone, those are probably the ones you want to pay attention to. And you can’t tell which ones they are, if you’re pestering yourself with every idea you have.

More TK.


Interesting reads this week

  • Tuning the distraction machine — Tanya Reilly: Our smartphones default to Do Not Disturb being off. Peel away the double negative and consider what this actually means: our smartphones default to Disturb being on. As I’ll ask anyone who’ll listen, what do you think that does to our psyche? (Yeah, I’m real popular at parties.)
  • Why Software is Slow and Shitty — Robin Rendle: “You don’t need a plan to make a beautiful thing” is something I need to remind myself of again, and again, and again.

Angelo Stavrow

Montreal, Canada
Email me

Tinkerer with a strong interest for development, of both the personal and software persuasion; easily defeated with spatulas. Equal measures enthusiasm and concern for tech's effect on the world. He/him.