The Best of Andy Rooney

(This classic Andy Rooney column was originally published Dec. 9, 1998.)

In the dead of night, when I lie awake thinking terrible thoughts, I think what a terrible thought "the dead of night" is. Who started calling it that?

This occurred to me at 3 Saturday night, when it really wasn't Saturday or night anymore, but early Sunday morning. I wouldn't dream of saying "in the dead of morning," and I couldn't dream of anything anyway, because I couldn't get to sleep. I couldn't even daydream because it was the dead of night.

Then I started worrying about how much I had to do and how little of it I got done the previous day. It was at this moment that I had the thought that may change my life. I realized successful people are not any better than I am at doing things; they're better at not doing things I waste time doing.

In the future, instead of making a TTDT (Things to Do Today) list, I'll draw up a TNTDT (Things Not to Do Today) list. That's where I've been going wrong: Doing things I shouldn't have bothered doing.

For example: At breakfast, I wanted orange juice, and I made my first bad decision. I said, "No" to myself, "I'll peel a grapefruit instead." I have a gadget for peeling grapefruit, and I did that. It took 12 minutes. I should have decided not to peel the grapefruit.

I poured the coffee and went out to the driveway to get the newspaper. Someone had left the garage door open the day before, and there were leaves in there, so I took five minutes to sweep them out. When I got back to the kitchen, the coffee was cold, so I poured it back in the pot for two minutes to warm it. Five and two is seven, plus 12 minutes for the grapefruit, and I'm already behind 19 minutes before my day's work has begun. This was all because of things I should not have done.

The first thing on my TTDT list was to get down to my office in the basement and start writing. "As long as I'm going down," I said to myself, "I'll put some stuff in the washing machine."

I went upstairs to get my dirty socks and underwear. A screw on the top of the laundry hamper has been loose for weeks, so I went to the basement to get a screwdriver, but the light bulb in my shop had blown. Light bulbs are upstairs. I went back up to get one. I put the bulb in, got the screwdriver, went upstairs and tightened the top of the laundry hamper, then took the laundry to the basement. I was about to start the washing machine, but we were out of detergent. I guess I'll have to go to the store, I thought. I wondered if there was anything else I needed.

Then I thought I should find something to cook for dinner.

I'd rather shop than go to the movies, and I spent an hour at the store. By the time I got home, it was 11 o'clock. I had bought lamb for making stew. Stew is better if you let it sit after you cook it, so I cut up the lamb, browned it in flour, oil and garlic and put it in a pot to simmer with chicken soup and chopped up onions.

It was now 12:30, so I made a sandwich and took it into the living room because there was a game I had to watch at one.

I ate, watched the game and dozed off. When I woke up, I turned off the television set and made up my mind nothing was going to stop me from getting to work.

When I took my plate to the kitchen, I noticed the mail had come, and I went over that. Nothing, but it took 10 minutes.

Now, I absolutely had to get to work. As I opened the door to go to the basement, I heard a neighbor outside knocking on the door.

"What?" I said, knowing it was nothing good.

The neighbor asked if he could borrow some wire to hang something.

It was not really a request and took precedence over this column. I went to the hardware store for the wire for my neighbor. He's been very good to us over the years.

The Best of Andy Rooney - Humor & Satire Classics

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