Last night I scattered my father’s ashes on the waters of the Ganges at Varanasi, the holy city to which Hindus come to die and end the cycle of death and rebirth.
India had exerted an ancestral pull on Dad his whole life but he’d never managed to actually go there. Therefore, when we kids provided the funds as a wedding anniversary present one year, he started his ‘India folder’ and began planning.
The folder grew with information about areas to go, places to stay, things to see, things to eat and more. After all, everything had to be perfect for the trip of a lifetime.
The folder grew, on and off, for seven more years. Then, when everything was finally planned, right down to the first guest house in the foothills of the Himalayas, he got bowel cancer and the trip was no more.
Procrastination is a very human characteristic and it’s often the things that matter the most to us that we put off the longest. You can spend too much time circling around big things rather than heading straight towards them because the possibility of failure or an imperfect outcome can be scary. The prospect of travel in India was pretty big and scary for someone of Dad’s age and maybe that’s why it was always something for ‘next year’, after a bit more research.
But sometimes, if you wait too long, one day the opportunity is gone.
In GTD – the Getting Things Done methodology – we make lists into hugely helpful things, but lists can be unhelpful, too, if they are not genuinely moving things forward towards your goals. The India folder was full of lists like that, lists of things that would eventually be valuable in India but which ultimately didn’t move Dad any closer to getting there.
As you reflect on the progress of projects in your own work and life, watch out for the ones that have been hanging around for too long. Are you still feeling energy and forward movement with them, or has your project become part of the landscape, something that you spent time doing things to but not actually moving forward?
Procrastination can eat up your time, and there may be less of it than you think.
(The title ‘Slowly down the Ganges’ is taken from the classic travel book by Eric Newby.)
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