Abe Lincoln -- productivity geek

In commemoration of Honest Abe's 200 birthday, Michael Leddy of Orange Crate Art ran this quote from the great President on avoiding procrastination:
Leave nothing for to-morrow, which can be done to-day. Never let your correspondence fall behind. Whatever piece of business you have in hand, before stopping, do all the labor pertaining to it which can then be done.

From "Notes on the Practice of Law," in The Portable Abraham Lincoln, edited by Andrew Delbanco (New York: Penguin, 2009), 33


  1. There is a maxim, ‘Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.’ It is a maxim for sluggards. A better reading of it is, ‘Never do today what you can as well do tomorrow,’ because something may occur to make you regret your premature action.

    Aaron Burr

  2. Here’s another Lincoln quote I saw for the first time yesterday:
    “Two of my favorite things are sitting on my front porch smoking a pipe of sweet hemp, and playing my Hohner harmonica.” – Abraham Lincoln (from a letter written by Lincoln during his presidency to the head of the Hohner Harmonica Company in Germany)

    This quote and others by pothead heroes collected to give historical context to the Michael Phelps controversy.

  3. As to Aaron Burr:
    “I can do it tomorrow”, the fool doth say. But today itself is too late, for the wise did yesterday.

  4. Clearly, this man has no understanding of modern finance or banking. The proper approach to business is to work hard at your prep school, get into the Ivy League universities (where you can slack off a little — nobody fails out of Harvard), and then get some high-prestige job in finance or banking or law in which real productivity is unmeasurable. Be sure to fill your resume with paper “accomplishments.” Don’t worry that you may be wrecking the economy — you will never be held accountable. If everything goes to hell, the feds will save you. But be sure to scream bloody murder if they even suggest that you should be restricted to a paltry half million a year.

  5. I suspect that when Lincoln wrote these words he was not describing his own practice but rather admonishing himself to do what he believed to be correct but couldn’t manage. Lincoln’s law partner Herndon wrote about how the young Abe would often have days in which he did nothing other than read the newspaper and ruminate, stare at the ceiling, or mope. This is one of the things that has made some psychologists theorize that Lincoln suffered from clinical depression.

  6. I suppose Lincoln had the good grace and manners not to reveal anything about – who? – Herndon? – whoever’s work habits. herndon say anything else disparaging of Lincoln?

  7. You know, without even KNOWING that it was going to be Lincoln’s birthday, a few friends and I here in Phoenix hosted our very first bi-weekly ‘Abraham Lincoln Pipe & Hat movie club’. We wore fake beards, top hats, smoked from tobacco pipes, and watched ‘Battle Royale’, a wonderful classic. Pictures here.

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