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home : opinion : opinion July 18, 2019

5/3/2019 10:53:00 AM
Do Your "A" List Things, First

Marty Reep, Author
Speaker, Forward-Thinker

If you do your highest priority items first, a few great things will happen: 1) your stress level will go down; 2) you’ll get excited that you finished something big; and 3) you’ll smile and laugh again.  It took me a long time to figure that out, but I did…and it works!

When I was in the eighth grade, I had Mrs. Harkey for science class.  She was a nice teacher, but she was firm in her expectations and in her grading.  In October that year, she assigned a big project that would be due at the beginning of December.  She explained that we would cover all of the topics and material in class, so it was up to us to take notes, to answer the questions for the project as we went along, and to work on the project assignments as homework. 

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She also explained that the project had different levels of completion, in order to earn the different grades possible.  Completing two basic items from the “D” list would earn us a “D”.  Completing the items for a “D”, plus two more items from the “C” list would earn us a “C”.  Completing those things plus three from the “B” list would earn us a “B”.  And, finally, completing all of those things plus three from the “A” list would earn us an “A”.

“You’re welcome to also do any additional items from each of the lists, to increase your grade within that separate grade category,” she explained.

“What does that mean?” somebody asked.

“It means that you can do extras from the B list to go all the way up to a B+.  But, you have to do the items from the A list, in order to earn the A.”

“Oh.  But what if we do all of the extra things on the B list, but none on the A list.”

“Then, you’d have a really high B…but not an A.”

“Got it.  Thank you, Ma’am.”

So, we could pick and earn whichever grade we wanted.  All that sounded simple enough, until I realized that a couple of the mandatory items on the “A” list were really hard and would take a lot of time (more than just the night before they were due), to get them done.

Being a procrastinator as a kid, I waited until the last minute to start working on the project.  Of course, I got stressed out; got mad at myself for waiting; and did sloppy work.  I tried to ignore the instructions at the top of the handout that were there to remind us of the grading criteria.  Instead of doing all of the things on the “A” list to earn the “A”, I did extras on the “B” list and hoped she would have mercy on me. 

She didn’t.  She stuck to her word and asked me if I remembered going over the instructions in class.  I started to play dumb, but in looking into her eyes, I could tell that wasn’t going to work.
“Yes, Ma’am.  I remember.”

“Then, what happened?  Why didn’t you do the other items?”

“I waited ‘til the last minute.”

“Did you understand the questions?”

“…ummm…Yes, when I finally read the book, last night.”

She grinned and tried her best not to laugh at my moment of self-candor.

“Well, Marty.  It looks like you’ll have a VERY high B on this project, along with a few others in the class.”

I looked around the room and caught eyes with a couple of my friends.  The look on their faces told the whole story.  They had done the same thing that I had done: not worked on the “A” list items, first! 

Thankfully, the lessons learned from Mrs. Harkey in eighth grade have stuck with me, all these years.  “A” list…first.  Then, “B” list.  Then, “C”...etc.

So, what’s on your “A” list that you’ve been putting off?  See if you can get it done, soon.  You’ll be glad you did.   

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