Keep A Projects Wishlist

A suggestion for prioritising new ideas and finishing what you start

A visual representation of storing shiny objects to chase, in a shop window in Berlin. Taken by me.
  1. You end up running in place, never feeling like you’re getting anywhere. You keep working on stuff, but you never have anything to show for it and you miss out on the satisfaction of finishing something.
  2. All those unfinished projects linger in your mind, becoming a source of guilt and frustration. Those feelings get tangled up with the project itself, making the chances of it ever seeing the light of day even smaller.

The basics

One ubiquitous piece of advice given to anyone trying to avoid impulse spending is to write down non-essential things you feel the urge to buy, then wait between a week and a month before reassessing if you still want it. The same technique works (for me) for avoiding impulsive project starting.

  • Make sure it’s somewhere you can find it later, not on a random post-it note or crammed in the margin of a to-do list.
  • Record the idea without making a decision about whether it’s good or not
  • (You might want to be quite detailed and specific, to avoid not remembering what you meant. Far too often, I revisit a vague, cryptic note and have no idea what it was about.)
  • Go through the list once you finish an existing project or find yourself with space for an additional one.
  • Remove anything that is no longer relevant or too unrealistic or unnecessary or otherwise not worthwhile.
  • Choose the idea that feels most appropriate.

Why it works

As with keeping a wishlist for purchases, the logic behind a project wishlist is simple.


Seeing as specific examples seem to go down well in this type of post, here’s the precise system I use! My note-taking app of choice is Bear.

A potential pitfall

One big counterpoint to the idea of keeping a projects wishlist is that it’s often easiest to start something when you first think of it. Waiting a while might make you lose interest, whereas the initial motivation could carry you all the way to finishing it.

  1. If I’m in a good flow with finishing stuff at that time and feel confident I’ll return to whatever is ongoing. And I’m not doing it to escape doing something difficult.

Content strategist @ Farnam Street by day. Essays here sometimes. Berlin. More writing/ say hi:

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