Friday, January 21, 2011

Do the Hard Thing First

One of the banes of my personality is procrastination. When I a was an engineer, I used the phrase “Do the hard thing first,” repeatedly in an attempt to keep myself on task. Being productive is an ongoing battle for me. In fact, one of the many new books I am reading is Getting Things Done by David Allen.

Alan Jacobs, who I quote here often, posts a lot of interesting quotes on his blog, more than 95 theses. One of his posts today speaks into my problem of procrastination.
“Every time we postpone some necessary event—whether we put off doing the dishes till morning or defer an operation or some difficult labor or study—we do so with the implication that present time is more important than future time (for if we wished the future to be as free and comfortable as we wish the present to be, we would perform the necessary actions as soon as they prove themselves necessary). There is nothing wrong with this, as long as we know what we are doing, and as long as the present indeed holds some opportunity more important than the task we delay. But very often our decision to delay is less a free choice than a semiconscious mechanism—a conspiracy between our reasoning awareness and our native dislike of pain. The result of this conspiracy is a disconcerting contradiction of will; for when we delay something, we simultaneously admit its necessity and refuse to do it. Seen more extensively, habitual delays can clutter our lives, leave us in the annoying position of always having to do yesterday’s chores. Disrespect for the future is a subtly poisonous disrespect for the self, and forces us, paradoxically, to live in the past.”
—Robert Grudin, quoted by Mandy Brown
I think this fits well with my simple idea of doing the hard things first.

1 comment:

Zack Melvin said...

This was very helpful for me to read. We should do what we can *today,* and not assume tomorrow's existence.

I noticed you haven't posted in a few years --- you should! I just started reading this blog and it's been helpful to me (especially your posts about fiction).


Grace and Peace
Zack