How To NOT Rely On Memory

Alexis Haselberger
5 min readMar 25, 2024

I can’t believe I’ve been writing this blog, weekly, for over 6 years and I haven’t done a true deep dive on opportunistic lists yet.

So, here we go!

You’ve heard me talk about task systems, ad nauseam. However opportunistic lists are a wholly different thing.

So, what the heck is an opportunistic list?

And while they can, and should, live in your task system, they’re different because they don’t have 2 key elements: next actions, or dates.

They’re not tasks; they’re task-adjacent.

It’s a list of things you only need to access opportunistically.


  • Your grocery list is the most iconic example of an opportunistic list.
  • When you’re at the grocery store, you’ll pick up the things on the list. But each item is not a task.
  • When you keep an ongoing grocery list, preferably in your task app, so it’s always available when you happen to pass by the grocery store, you can pick things up opportunistically, without having to store that stuff in your head.
  • Pro-tip: I like to tag the items on my grocery list with the store where I usually buy the thing. That way, if I stop by Trader Joe’s it’s really easy to filter just the stuff I usually buy from Trader Joe’s, etc.

Gift ideas

  • Do you ever see something in a store, or online and think “That would be a fantastic gift for my mom”, but it’s 6 months away from [insert gift-giving holiday of your choice] and her birthday was last month?
  • And you know, without a doubt, that there’s no way you’ll remember this when the right time rolls around.
  • Then go ahead and add that idea to your “gift ideas” list and tag it with “mom”.
  • And keep on doing this whenever you think of a great gift for someone you know.
  • Then when it IS time to buy that person a gift, you’ve got a pre-curated list of ideas ready to go.
  • And yes, I know you could just buy the thing immediately when you see it or think of it, but then you have to store it in your house for who knows how long. And you might risk forgetting that you bought it anyway. (Oh wait, is that just me??)

To Read

  • My to-read list is 377 items long. Not 37, but 377. (Yes, you read that right.)
  • Now, I read a lot (between 50 and 75 books a year on average). But even at that pace, I can’t keep up with the rate at which I hear about books I WANT to read.
  • So whenever I read a book review, or get a recommendation from a friend, I add it to the list.
  • And then when I’m ready to read a new book, I always have something ready to go.
  • Pro-Tip: Put several of your “to-read” books on hold via your Libby app (app for your library) and then you always have a new book waiting in the wings for you, directly from your list.

To Watch

  • Is it just me or is TV getting better and better. Gone are the days of the 90s single-camera sitcom. Now we’ve got the good stuff (“Succession”, “Severance”, “Reservation Dogs”, “The Righteous Gemstones”, “Kevin Can F*** Himself”, “The Big Brunch”…the list goes on and on).
  • And movies. So many movies.
  • I love TV and movies. But I can’t spend all my time watching. Moreover, I don’t want to.
  • But you know what I hate? Spending 30 minutes scrolling Netflix looking for something to watch.
  • So when I hear about something that sounds good, I just add it to the list.
  • And when I’m ready for something new, I check that list.

To Listen To

  • Now, I do have to admit that this is my shortest opportunistic list. I still mostly just listen to the music I loved in HS and college.
  • But I aspire to listen to new music. So when I hear about something that sounds interesting, I add it to the list. And then I tell my Amazon Echo to play it for me. And if I like it, it goes on the regular rotation.
  • ( Also, can I use this opportunity to try to make this list longer? Have you found any great new music recently that you think I should listen to? As a point of reference, I’m sort of stuck in 90s/2000’s era hip-hop, new wave and grunge as my on my regular rotation. And Maggie Rogers, lots of Maggie Rogers.)

Restaurants to Try

  • I LOVE food. I love trying new restaurants. And so when I read about one that gets good reviews, or I get a recommendation from a friend, it goes on the list.
  • And these get tagged with their location (and maybe even who recommended it).
  • I like to have a list of places to try already on deck when I head back to a city I frequent.
  • And I like having new options for my Friday night date night.

Places to Travel

  • I also love to travel, and I’ve got a wish list of places I’d love to go but haven’t been yet.
  • It gives me inspiration for vacation planning. (Oh, who am I kidding? I don’t do any vacation planning. My husband takes care of those details and boy am I glad he does because I hate travel planning. But I’ve shared this list with him. So he can use it!)

Recipes to Try

  • This is also kind of a short one for me, because I don’t cook from recipes very often. I love to read recipes. But I rarely cook from them. (I like to just cook from what I’ve got, according to how I feel.)
  • But sometimes I read a recipe and I think “That looks good!” and “I bet my family would like that!” and so I put it in this list and then I read it and then start cooking, loosely in the spirit of that recipe.

And, they can save you SO MUCH TIME. (And you know I love that.)

Let me give you some examples, pulled directly from my own system:

So, what am I missing here?

Are there other opportunistic lists that I should be tracking?

What are your opportunistic lists?

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Originally published at on March 25, 2024.