Updated on 12.05.11

Your “Someday” List Can Change Your Life

Trent Hamm

Whenever I think of something I’d love to do if only I had the time, I write it down in a little notebook I have that I call my “someday notebook.” It’s just a long list of projects that I’d love to take on in the future. Here are a few examples from a random page:

Write a novel from scratch in three weeks
Make the game review video series
Reorganize all of the camping equipment
Completely clean out the pantry
Build a microcontroller setup for the outdoor lighting
Paint my boardgame miniatures
Finish my philosophy reading list
Build a microcontroller for automated garden watering

That notebook goes on and on and on like this. I just take the idle thoughts that I think most people have and I simply write them down.

The key thing, though, is what I do with this list.

Whenever I’m tempted to go out and do something expensive, I go look at this list.

Whenever I find myself slipping into spending my time on something idle, I go look at this list.

Whenever I feel anything approaching boredom, I go look at this list.

When I look at the list, I go through it and look for the thing that seems the most exciting at that moment, because that’s the thing that will get me up and accomplishing something.

I get started and then I work at it until something else needs to be accomplished.

What does this do for me? It keeps me from spending unnecessary money. It allows me to constantly feel like I’m moving forward on the things I’d like to be doing. It causes me to develop new skills, build new knowledge, and produce new things.

The only thing I lose in this process is the time I would have spent on the couch channel-surfing between Jersey Shore and reruns of The Big Bang Theory, sitting on the internet debating someone in a forum over something completely unimportant, or spending money on some item or experience that didn’t really matter to me in the long run.

If you want to start changing your life, start a “someday” list. Right now, take out a piece of paper and list ten things you’d like to do someday. They can be little things or big things, whatever comes to mind. Keep that list with you and whenever something new comes to mind, add it. Then, every time you find yourself about to make a money mistake or about to waste some time, look at it, choose something from it, and do it. Piece by piece, you’ll start building yourself a better life.

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  1. Misha says:

    Seriously, did “Big Bang Theory” kick your dog or something?

  2. Katie says:

    I feel like this has been posted before?

  3. Andrew says:

    More recycled mush.

  4. Johanna says:

    If nobody ever sat on the internet debating things that are completely unimportant, this site would lose about 90% of its traffic, it seems to me.

  5. Vanessa says:

    “Write a novel from scratch in three weeks…”

    Sure you could write a novel in three weeks, but how good would it be?

  6. Johanna says:

    “Sure you could write a novel in three weeks, but how good would it be?”

    Simply put, it would actually be deeply inspiring.

  7. Andrew says:

    Seriously, Trent, are there never days when looking at your “someday” list isn’t inspiring? Are there never times when the prospect of taking on a project fills you with nothing but despair and loathing? Don’t you ever just want to goback to bed and pull the covers over your head?

    This peppy, gee-whiz, all-American, go-getter, up-and-at-’em, how-to-succeed stuff is really getting old.

  8. lurker carl says:

    Trent needs to concentrate on improving his critical thinking skills instead writing exhaustive lists of hobbies and projects, especially considering his poor attention to detail and maladroit moderation. Ignoring comments is particularly disturbing, I learn far more from reading the comments than Trent’s posts.

  9. Brad Moore says:

    Thanks, Trent. I am going to incorporate part of your idea! I going to send an email to myself, title it something like “someday list”, and when I think of something to add, I’ll add it and send it to myself again. I would probably lose the notebook…hard to lose an email!

    Mine might have a different flavor cause my first thing will be doing a ropes course with the fam – which we plan to do over Christmas holidays!

    Thanks for the idea!

  10. valleycat1 says:

    I don’t understand why it’s ok to create your own box to be able to stream internet content to the tv screen (from Trent’s Saturday post) – presumably because one plans to watch shows that way, but not ok to surf the tv directly. Yes, you have more control about which show you actually watch, but you’re still watching TV.

  11. David says:

    “Sure you could write a novel in three weeks, but how good would it be?”

    Walter B Gibson, under the pen name Maxwell Smart, is estimated to have written over a million words a year during a 15-year period from 1934 to 1948. These words eventually comprised some 282 novels (they originally appeared in serial form), so his output slightly exceeded a novel every three weeks.

    Were they any good? Only the Shadow knows.

  12. Gretchen says:

    Aren’t you already writing a novel?
    Don’t you make your living off people ” sitting on the internet debating someone in a forum over something completely unimportant”?

  13. Andrew says:

    Maxwell Smart? I think you meant Maxwell Grant.

    Sorry about that, Chief–

  14. David says:

    I think I probably did – comes of quoting from memory when you don’t actually have one.

  15. Chad says:

    The negativity of comments on this post is interesting because I actually thought this was one of the better posts he’s made in a while. I’m inspired and plan on starting a list (and trying to log off the net more).

  16. kristine says:

    Yes, but it is an elaborated version of a post section about a week ago, in which this exact thought was succinctly put in two sentences. The additions are not substantive insights. There was already a lengthy comment conversation on the value of such a list, vs. the value of boredom as way to incite imagination. A mere week later is too soon for a repeat.

  17. McKella says:

    I love this! I already have lots of “to-do” type lists laying around, the biggest one being my “Handprint List”, which is similar to a bucket list. I haven’t looked at it for a few weeks, but thanks for the reminder.

  18. getagrip says:

    I think the better point of such a list is things you’d “like” to do. So looking at it should be an encouraging reminder of things you might think are fun or interesting to do and using some of your down time for that. I don’t need another weekend chore or household activity list. Too often we look to TV, the internet, etc. when we’ve had enough of the chores or work and want to veg. I like this idea as an occasional alternative to vegging out assuming you are putting things on the list that you actually would look forward to doing rather than things you think you should be doing.

  19. Steven says:

    I like to chill out on the couch in front of the TV watching The Big Bang Theory…

    Does that make me a bad person?

  20. Dave M says:

    Trent, I promise I will donate $20 to your favorite charity if you can avoid trashing broadcast television for a month (remember folks, Hulu is OK). I’ll let you start next Monday 12/12 as there are probably some articles in the pipeline that still regurgitate this tired trope.

    +1 for Big Bang Theory (haha #1 Misha!)

  21. kevin says:

    Simply put, Trent is obviously not passionate about Big Bang Theory.

  22. David says:

    Trent, I am sorry you have some of the most bitter and carping commenters in the PF world. I disagree with you sometimes but the people on here who troll your website daily–ehem, Johanna, ehem–just to criticize your work make me depressed about the state of humanity. GO SOMEWHERE ELSE PEOPLE. Your comments do nothing to further the conversation that a “comments section” should allow.

    And now I will move on because my own comment is drifting into that territory. Carry on.

  23. kevin says:

    @22 David – Don’t worry about Trent – he doesn’t read comments anyway.

  24. Riki says:

    Also, all the criticism pretty much writes his pay cheque every month.

  25. David says:

    For clarity, I (David) who cannot tell the difference between Maxwell Smart and Maxwell Grant and possibly Maxwell House am not the person (David) who is sorry for Trent because other people (who may or may not be called David, or even Maxwell or Johanna) disagree with him. Such people do not depress me about the state of humanity in the least; the state of humanity would, I think, be the poorer if everyone agreed with everyone else when everyone else was patently wrong.

  26. Tizzle says:

    I dunno if this post was repetitive. But I liked it and feel like I should try out the suggestion. The fact I didn’t remember him saying something just like it within the last 10 days kinda shows that repetition isn’t a bad thing.

    I read this blog (via rss) more as a daily reminder of what I’m trying to do. I swear, there are very few things I can do to be more frugal in my own life (except for sacrificing happiness), but reading about it keeps me focused.

    I was hoping the comments were gonna be a bit less negative and a bit more inspiring. Now I just feel like I should counteract the general flow. Eh, ymmv, as they say.

  27. AnnJo says:

    Johanna @6, I nearly choked on the orange I was eating when I read that comment.

  28. David says:

    It’s not the disagreeing with him that bothers me. I love me some critical thinking and analysis.

    What bothers me are 1.) the tone of the criticism. 2.) the fact that the disagreement is often with some small, minor, often inconsequential facet of the post 3.) the negative comments are often not “disagreements” but ad hominem attacks that do nothing to advance the discussion in the comments section.

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