Here’s a handy five-minute exercise based on concepts from the productivity classic Getting Things Done. If you can, do this exercise right now.

  1. Grab your phone and open the Notes app (or start a new Google Doc on your laptop, or find paper and pen).
  2. Without stopping to censor yourself, write down everything you might want to do in the future but aren’t committed to doing right now.
    • learning French
    • running a half-marathon
    • cleaning the basement
    • reading Ulysses
    • getting a dog
    • replacing your old frying pan
    • visiting Peru
  3. Clean up any typos or repeats.
  4. Keep the list with you so you can add to it easily.
  5. Set an alarm on your phone (or mark your calendar) to skim this list at a set time every two weeks. This will also take about 5 minutes.
  6. Pat yourself on the back, because you’ve just made a Someday/Maybe list. Nice job! You’re likely feeling less stress about the future and greater clarity in your thinking about the present.

We’ve all got ideas, hopes and dreams that pile up in our head and cause anxiety. Keeping them in a trusted external system, though, lets us focus on the task at hand and live our lives with less distraction.