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Incubate vs. Someday Maybe vs. Ticklers

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  • Incubate vs. Someday Maybe vs. Ticklers

    Can someone explain the difference between these things for me? When does something go into each category? And Why? And do I really need all three?

  • #2
    Incubate = projects you are actively thinking about or pre-planning, without a hard deadline (redecorate living room, investigate sideline business).

    Someday/Maybe = possible projects, currently inactive, but you don't want to forget them because you might activate them in the future (write a book, learn Russian).

    Tickler = commitments with a definite date or deadline (pay a bill, attend a concert).

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    • #3
      Originally posted by blissfulthinking View Post
      Can someone explain the difference between these things for me? When does something go into each category? And Why? And do I really need all three?
      Physical papers I need to decide on, or are due at a specific time go into the paper tickler file. Also physical things I want to postpone deciding about for a while (a class I may take whose registration isn't due yet, a meeting to attend) get put in my physical tickler file. So I use my tickler for some incubate items.

      My Someday/Maybe list is in Omnifocus and I have all the possible projects, dreams and life list things as well as projects that are not going to be worked on for a while in there. So I mix incubate into the rest of the Someday/Maybe projects.

      I'm seriously thinking of separating them out into Someday/Incubate and Maybe/Dreams but haven't done it yet. I am learning how to use OF perspectives to sort stuff more easily I'm thinking of flagging all the maybe items, making inactive all the incubate and someday items and leaving only current projects active. Then I can choose which set I need to see or all at once.

      Figure out what works for you with your own system.

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      • #4
        Incubate and Someday/Maybe are the same thing, as far as I can tell. It's basically a holding cell for things not yet committed to.

        Tickler/Bring Forward is basically a calendar hack.

        "Learn Russian" goes into the former, "My passport expires this year" goes into the latter.

        All that being said, you won't really generally get into too much trouble if you occasionally mis-categorize something between these two.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by blissfulthinking View Post
          Can someone explain the difference between these things for me? When does something go into each category? And Why? And do I really need all three?
          To "incubate" something is a more general term that is inclusive of both a tickler file and one or more Someday/Maybe lists.

          A tickler file is a way to "mail" something to yourself at some date in the future. It could be a reminder to start a particular project or do a particular Next Action on a given day or it could be a resource you need for something on a given day or it could be any of a number of other things--airline tickets tickled for the day you're leaving on vacation, a receipt for a shipment you're expecting to be delivered by UPS on a given day, a checklist of things to do every Fall in preparation for the coming Winter months, a sheet of notes on a project your boss told you to start looking into next month, etc. etc. etc. The possibilities are endless. You put the item in a numbered or month-named folder corresponding to the day or month you'll need it. See 43folders.com or elsewhere on David Allen's website for how to create a tickler file.

          A Someday/Maybe list (or lists) is a place for you to stash ideas, wishlist items, thoughts for places to go, things to see, books to read, etc. It can also be a place to park that inactive project you aren't going to be working on for awhile to get it off your radar. Anything that can be considered an "inactive project" or you can complete the sentence "Someday, I'd like to ..." with can go on a Someday/Maybe list.

          Hope this helps.

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          • #6
            The only thing I use incubating for is ongoing email threads at work where I have a bit of an opinion but no current actions. I will probably never keep the conversation therefore the action is not to put it in reference. But I don't want to delete it just yet until the matter is closed.

            Think of incubating as "might hatch into a project or action soon, but might not".

            I have one incubating folder per incubating thread under my inbox and the most I ever get to is about 3. They rapidly either become a project or get deleted, usually within a couple of days when the various people on the cc list have weighed in.

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            • #7
              My definitions would be:

              Someday: I'm actually going to do it, I just don't know exactly when. So, upgrading a server, painting the house - things that really do need to get done, but they aren't active right now.

              Maybe or Incubate: I'd like to get it done, but there's no assurance that it will ever happen. I think there's a subtle difference between these two, but I just call them Maybe.

              Tickler: Something that I don't need to think about until after a certain date. These may link to tasks that are active now - for example, I may send a review version of a document to someone, and set a tickler to remind me to remind them in three days that I'm waiting for a response.

              Or ticklers may link to Maybe tasks - for example, I may have a tickler for September 1 that tells me, "Think about whether to order spring bulbs this year." I have a Maybe project where I've put all of my spring bulb thoughts, and this tickler reminds me to decide whether to activate this project this year, because if I don't activate it soon after September 1, it will be too late.

              Gardener

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              • #8
                I have had things in Someday/Maybe for years and look at that list weekly. Some things I look at and go: "Hmmm. That IS still a great thing to do SOMETIME in the future."

                I think that a once-a-week look at the list is quite optimal. I have deleted things out of Someday after they had been there for years because I either decided I was never going to do them or I changed the language of what I was thinking of accomplishing, and by doing that these "dreams" have morphed into something else, often projects and even current areas of focus. One example was "to start learning one or two Scandinavian languages again, and now it is an area of focus for me. (It is not a project because I will likely continue with these languages until I die. In other words, I will never "finish" this activity -- it will run concurrent with anything else I do for the rest of my life. It may intensify at certain points or even lie dormant only to be resurrected again. In fact, it had been dormant for a few years until I actively started paying attention to it again about 5 months ago).
                Last edited by alsa; 06-03-2009, 01:56 PM.

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                • #9
                  Tickler - Someday/Maybe - Incubate

                  Originally posted by blissfulthinking View Post
                  Can someone explain the difference between these things for me? When does something go into each category? And Why? And do I really need all three?
                  Blissfulthinking,

                  When I have decided to do (or at least start) something on a particular day in the future, I put it into the tickler file.

                  When I would like to - or think I should - do something, but I am not going to start on it immediately or on a certain date in the future, then it goes in Someday/Maybe

                  Occasionally, I just can't decide what to do about something. In that case, I put it in an Incubate folder. Periodically, I process the Incubate folder just like I would my Inbox. Usually, I can get clarity on how to deal with something simply by letting it incubate for a day or so.

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