One of my favorite philosophers is Sir Francis Bacon. His essays are short, rich in wisdom, and always relevant to modern life. Just the same, they can be a bit hard to digest, since there are written in an older style.

His famous essay "Of Dispatch" is a case in point -- it's full of timeless advice about how to get things done. Sadly, it's not read and appreciated as much as I think it should be.

I decided one day to channel Larry the Cable Guy to see if the two of us could come up with a translation that made sense to modern readers. Here it is.




The Essays, by Francis Bacon


Of Dispatch

Affected dispatch is one of the most dangerous things to business that can be. It is like that, which the physicians call predigestion, or hasty digestion; which is sure to fill the body full of crudities, and secret seeds of diseases. Therefore measure not dispatch, by the times of sitting, but by the advancement of the business. And as in races it is not the large stride or high lift that makes the speed; so in business, the keeping close to the matter, and not taking of it too much at once, procureth dispatch. It is the care of some, only to come off speedily for the time; or to contrive some false periods of business, because they may seem men of dispatch. But it is one thing, to abbreviate by contracting, another by cutting off. And business so handled, at several sittings or meetings, goeth commonly backward and forward in an unsteady manner. I knew a wise man that had it for a byword, when he saw men hasten to a conclusion, Stay a little, that we may make an end the sooner.

On the other side, true dispatch is a rich thing. For time is the measure of business, as money is of wares; and business is bought at a dear hand, where there is small dispatch. The Spartans and Spaniards have been noted to be of small dispatch; Mi venga la muerte de Spagna; Let my death come from Spain; for then it will be sure to be long in coming.

Give good hearing to those, that give the first information in business; and rather direct them in the beginning, than interrupt them in the continuance of their speeches; for he that is put out of his own order, will go forward and backward, and be more tedious, while he waits upon his memory, than he could have been, if he had gone on in his own course. But sometimes it is seen, that the moderator is more troublesome, than the actor.

Iterations are commonly loss of time. But there is no such gain of time, as to iterate often the state of the question; for it chaseth away many a frivolous speech, as it is coming forth. Long and curious speeches, are as fit for dispatch, as a robe or mantle, with a long train, is for race. Prefaces and passages, and excusations, and other speeches of reference to the person, are great wastes of time; and though they seem to proceed of modesty, they are bravery. Yet beware of being too material, when there is any impediment or obstruction in men’s wills; for pre-occupation of mind ever requireth preface of speech; like a fomentation to make the unguent enter.

Above all things, order, and distribution, and singling out of parts, is the life of dispatch; so as the distribution be not too subtle: for he that doth not divide, will never enter well into business; and he that divideth too much, will never come out of it clearly. To choose time, is to save time; and an unseasonable motion, is but beating the air. There be three parts of business; the preparation, the debate or examination, and the perfection. Whereof, if you look for dispatch, let the middle only be the work of many, and the first and last the work of few. The proceeding upon somewhat conceived in writing, doth for the most part facilitate dispatch: for though it should be wholly rejected, yet that negative is more pregnant of direction, than an indefinite; as ashes are more generative than dust.
The Essays, by Larry the Cable Guy


Git 'R Done


Don't jes pretend to be busy -- that won't git 'r done. That's kinda like when ya eat too fast -- just gives ya gas an' such. So don't pay no mind to how much time you spend, jes think 'bout whether yer actually gittin' 'r done! It's like when yer running -- pumping yer legs real high don't make ya go no faster; so to git 'r done, stick to subject, and take things a little bit at a time. That'll git 'r done. Some folks is always runnin' around trying to look busy, but that ain't gittin' 'r done. And remember there's a big difference between getting' away with a quickie with the wife, and getting' caught smack dab in the middle of a longer porkfest! Ya gotta take yer time, see it through, or you'll never git 'r done. I knew one feller that always said ''Sit back down here, dang it, so's we can finish and git 'r done!''

On t'other hand, gittin' 'r done is a really righteous thang. Time's money, an' if yer not gittin' 'r done, yer wasting money. Them old guys back in Sparta and Spain wuz the kind a folks that *didn't* git much done. Why hell -- I hope if somebody's gonna kill me, they's from Spain, cause it's gonna take 'em a helluva long time to git around to it.

Y'all gotta learn ta listen carefully. A good idea is to tell a feller exactly what ye wanna know right from the git-go, instead of constantly interruptin 'em, 'cause a feller that's interrupted gets all shook up and don't remember stuff, an' yer just causin' more trouble.

Beatin' 'round the bush is just time a'wastin. But remember -- y'all's gonna save time by askin ''What the hell are we tryin' to do here, anyways?'' That keeps folks from yappin' too much about stupid stuff. Fancy speechifyin' don't git 'r done -- that's like wearin' yer best duds when y' go four-wheelin' in the mud. An' don't waste time sweet-talkin' nobody, neither-- that's just bull-shit. But jes' the same, don't be a asshole 'bout it -- y'all wanna git people on yer side, and sometimes a kind word or two's gonna help.

The main thing is, y'all gotta git yer shit in order, and break the problems down into bite-size chunks, if ya wanna git 'r done. Remember -- if ya don't split yer problem into smaller pieces, ya ain't never gonna git started solving it, but if ya break it into too many pieces, y ain't never gonna git done! That just makes sense, don't it? Choosin' the right time is the same as savin' time; otherwise, yer jes flappin' yer jaw. There's three parts to gittin' 'r done -- gittin' set up an' started, then doin' it, and finishin' up. Now, if y'all really want ta git 'r done fast, do the first part yerself, then git yer friends ta help ya do the work, then send 'em home so's you can clean up and put the final touches on yerself. And a plan that's written down is a whole lot better'n a bunch a cheap talk, 'cause you can see yer mistakes plain as day, an' learn from 'em.