Now Or Never

02 Aug 2009

It was a simple mission: go to Sheffield and visit Lyn's great uncle Frank. We started planning, checking fares on We looked forward to completing it and reporting early.

Somehow we were distracted, and never quite managed to free a weekend for the trip. We failed.

Great uncle Frank died on Thursday.

We failed because we thought we had time, but we didn't. The number of open opportunities remains roughly constant; for every new one that appears, another disappears. And this unavoidable loss is doubly damaging because adventures build on adventures. We spent ten days in silent meditation, an adventure in itself: at the end of it we were invited to hike cross-country with a group of Thai monks to celebrate Buddhahasa's birthday. That's a level up that we would never have known existed.

So we don't, we can't, say no to anything. Right now I have trips booked to Orlando, Bruges, Bristol, Munich, Cambridge, and Scotland. Recently I've presented at Rails Underground and Hide & Seek (as far as I know, the second-biggest pervasive games festival in the world), and I've got gigs coming up at Igfest and Scrum Gathering.

And as a result, we never have a spare moment. I still use David Allen's "Getting Things Done" system, but my "Someday" file might as well be "Never". This was a "Someday" mission. And that's why we failed.

On some level, I know this. A good friend points at a flier and says "we should go to this". I agree, but I'm thinking, "we should, but we aren't going to". If we were going, we wouldn't be talking right now. We'd be buying tickets, working out logistics, clearing our calendars.

At work, sometimes I startle people by dropping everything to deal with a new task now. I pay bills weeks before they're due. It's because I know that, if I don't do it now, I'll never do it.

Even "never mind, we'll do it tomorrow" isn't safe. Tomorrow, something else is going to happen, we'll re-plan, and this will get quietly consigned to "someday". It's spin, a cop-out, to say "tomorrow". It's a lie.

At least there's something very freeing about this kind of merciless scheduling. I've heard "clutter" defined as "decisions you haven't made yet". With everything either nailed to dates or thrown away, my schedule is clutter-free and relatively predictable. I book things weeks in advance, or I don't book them at all.

It requires a constant alertness to make every single choice into "now or never". But I have to. Because there's never any time. Never any time but now.