Dio It NowI heard a story about Napoleon wanting trees to be planted along the roads of France, so his troops could march in shade.  He was told that the trees wouldn’t provide shade for many years.  To which he exclaimed, “All the better to plant them now!”  This story parallels a Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was ten years ago.  The second best is today.”

It is a strange paradox that we often postpone both the fun and the unpleasant.  It’s understandable that we don’t want to do anything that is unpleasant – whether it’s a visit to the dentist or changing a dirty diaper.  The fun is postponed because we think we should be doing something else that is “important.”

But the unpleasant doesn’t get less unpleasant with time – usually it’s the opposite.  Not having that funny noise checked on your car eventually results in a larger repair bill.  And putting off the fun usually results in the opportunity being lost through unavailability or because we can no longer participate.

None of this means that we should live a life of carefree spontaneity or constant instantaneous performance of every task – there must be moderation in all things.  You must be careful in considering what to do now and what can be postponed.  It’s a question of importance vs. urgency and tradeoffs of effort now vs. effort later.  Washing your dishes immediately after a meal will likely take less time and result in cleaner dishes than if you leave them in the sink for a few days – if nothing else, you won’t have the nagging feeling that you must wash dishes and dreading the thought.

My rule of thumb is anything that I can do immediately in less than five minutes is done now unless there’s a higher importance item – as my wife use to say to our children, “If there’s bleeding from an artery or the house is on fire…”  I don’t have to keep track of things I’ve done and I can focus on what’s importance or fun.

Lastly, consider this thought I received today – “The longer you wait for the future, the shorter it will be.” – Loesje

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.