Order of Operations

An order of operations is a list of things you must to, and the proper order to do them in. There are many tasks that require many steps. In most cases, if you perform these steps at the wrong time, then you will not be pleased with the final results. The best example of an order of operations comes from basic mathematics. Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally is a mnemonic device used to remember how to solve equations. Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction. If you are faced with a complex equation, and start adding and subtracting as your first step, then you are going to have an incorrect answer.

Angry Teacher

And a disappointed teacher.

In taxonomy there is an order of operations to classify organisms. King Phillip Came Over For Good Soup reminds us that living things are classified by Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and finally species. You can classify from the top-down, but it is much harder to do from the bottom-up.

There are plenty of every day order of operations that exist outside academics. Mass transit systems have an order of operations. You have to buy your ticket before you get on the train. The self-check out at the grocery store has an order of operations. If you press “pay” before you start scanning items then the whole system gets screwed up. Any system, really, has an order of operations for best results. You go to the bathroom before the long car trip. You put your socks on before your shoes.

Drunk Driver

You wait to drink until after you get home.

Even the most abstract things have a proper order of operations. You don’t enter a party, say goodbye to everybody, and then start eating. Not unless you are Bizarro. You don’t plan a wedding, invite all the guests, and then start asking people to marry you. That would be weird, and it almost certainly won’t work out very well.

It seems everything can be done in a proper order of operations to maximize results. So what is the proper order of operations for life? When should you go to school? When should you quit your job? Should you get all your affairs in order before or after you die?


These people had a lot planned for tomorrow.

We often ask how or why we should do things. But there are infinite ways to do anything, and an infinite number of reasons to do it. What we should be asking is when to do things. If you do everything at the right time, does it matter if you do it wrong, or why you are doing it?

Maybe there are really only three questions that matter. What did I just do? What do I do next? Where do I stand in the Order of Things.

Person Standing

Right here, next to this big rock.