The late Stephen Covey became world famous for his book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. These people weren't just successful, they were highly successful. Then he followed up that blockbuster with another book titled Doing First Things First. I never bought the 7 Habits book although the contents were so thoroughly publicized everywhere you couldn't miss having them memorized. People needed a book to remind them to figure out what to do and then do it. That may sound a bit flippant, but if you look around the world, ask yourself how many people actually know what they should be doing. And then ask yourself how many people who know what they should be doing are actually doing it. The same with Big Corporations. The same with Congress and the U.S. Government. Knowing what to do is obviously a long way away from actually doing anything. So no wonder Covey's book appealed so many countless readers around the world.
I bought the Doing First Things First book because I thought maybe it might be important to think about doing first things first. I realized, however, after I read the first chapter that the book went against the grain of procrastination and put it in my bookshelf, never to be finished. I just worried about the implications of the book every time I saw it. So I eventually donated the book to charity so I would no longer be plagued by looking at it. Unfortunately, this sequence of events concerning this book still weighs heavily on my conscience.
Here is the Curmudgeonly Professor's Guide to doing last things first:
1. Today's last thing may be tomorrow's first thing. You never know, so if you've already done today's last thing by tomorrow, and it turns out to be the first thing by then, you already have it done and you are way ahead of the game.
2. Whether some task is actually the first thing is a matter of subjective judgment. True, if you are freezing, you may rate that the first thing and turn up the thermostat. Consider the task of returning book club cards before the due date so you don't get another batch of two or three books and then have to mark them refused and take them to the post office. Actually, the book club will get sick of you and not send you any more notices or books, and you should feel guilty for abusing them. Book clubs don't even send me stuff wanting me desperately to join them again. I am on some kind of blacklist.
3. Doing the first thing first violates the Law Procrastination. I bought a book once about procrastination, but never got around to reading it. I know what procrastination means, however. It means to put off stuff as long as your conscience can bear it and as long as you can stand listening to your spouse write notes about it, give you reminders, and threaten you with divorce.
4. Many so called First Things may not actually be first things tomorrow or two months from now. Their importance may have vanished as circumstances have changed and you find you no longer need to do it. For example, the wind may come up and blow your leaves down the street and then you would have wasted all that time cleaning them up, if you can stand a reputation of being a terrible neighbor.
5. While teaching school, I put off as long as possible the task of making out exams, preparing lectures, grading exams, and attending faculty meetings. In that way, my ideas were always more fresh and creative since my mind had to work quickly and not dawdle in the luxury of having days or weeks to do something. While waiting for the last minute, however, I engaged in many scholarly pursuits of great magnitude.
This list is just a preliminary list. I am still working on my eBook on weight loss, which I will finish when I get my new computer with Microsoft Word 2013. Provided I can figure out how to use Word 2013 to format my wonderful eBook for Kindle publication. I encourage you all to part with $2.99 to buy this epic once I have announced its availability. I may then write a second eBook on how to do last things first. Right now, finishing my weight loss book is probably my first thing. And, sadly, I realize I have violated my own maxim to put first things off until the last.