Law 1: If it can’t hurt you and it might help you, you have to do it.
This law was inspired by witnessing my widowed and blind mother wishing to go to dinner and spend some time with friends. When I visited her, which I did most days, she expressed her desire.
“Great,” I said, “Why don’t you give the Jones or Smiths a call?”
“They’re probably busy,” she responded.
So she didn’t call, directly violating Law 1. It drove me crazy. She wanted to do something fun. She had friends she enjoyed and who enjoyed her. But the possibility of a fun evening was rendered impossible because she broke the law.
True, her friends might have been busy. If so, they would have expressed sorrow at not being able to join her and perhaps suggested an alternative date. But the likelihood is they would have been available and would have enjoyed meeting. By not placing the call, there was no hope of a fun evening.
Now a word does have to be said about the “it can’t hurt you” part. There usually is some “hurt,” but often it is so minor that representing it as nothing is no stretch. For example, in the above scenario placing a phone call takes some effort. And I suppose there would be disappointment if the answer had been no. However, compared to the enormous positive result if the friends agreed to go out, or reschedule, I feel the effort and possible “hurt” are insignificant.
I have observed people violating the law over and over to their detriment.
Here’s the second law.
Law 2’: Never do today what can be put off until tomorrow.
What! That’s a terrible law. It’s nothing more than an old joke. It encourages procrastination and that can have unpleasant repercussions. It can irritate folks who are depending on you to fulfill some required task. Aha, but that isn’t my law. Here’s the real Law 2 which turns the joke into a powerful guide.
Law 2: Never do today what can be put off until tomorrow unless you are absolutely sure it has to be done in which case you might as well go ahead and do it.
This law was developed shortly after I joined academia. We had a Dean, a nice enough fellow, who loved statistics, reports, and dotted i’s. He would issue a series of commands for faculty to prepare information and forward it to him. I learned that if you didn’t respond, more often than not that was the end of it. Never a further request, so I eventually figured submissions weren’t important, saving myself considerable time.
This explains the reason for the first part of Law 2: to protect you from making effort that isn’t really required. I’ve found that often is the case.
But what if effort is indeed necessary? Then the law places heavy responsibility on you to do the things that truly have to be done, and to do them in a timely manner. Procrastination is not a plus with this law.
So paying bills is important and shouldn’t be delayed. On the other hand, filling out surveys could be a waste of time and easily ignored.
Of course, it’s clearly tongue-in-cheek to say these laws are all it takes to have a good life. Surprisingly, though, I have found applications for them over and over. I invite you, as you make decisions in your life, to determine if either applies. You might be surprised how often they do.