When are wise sayings about time wrong?

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today! This is another one of those bits of exalted wisdom that we learned way back in our childhood. “Under the influence of this pestilent morality, I am forever letting tomorrow’s work slop backwards into today’s, and doing painfully and nervously today what I could do quickly and easily tomorrow.” – J. A. Spender. This quote by Spender is interesting and funny since it contradicts that old wisdom about procrastination that dogs so many of us. How many of us live by these bits of wisdom that we learn early in life and never question? There are usually two sides to every story and very few things in life are universally or unequivocally true. For every bit of wisdom, there is a counterpoint.

While there may be few absolutes, this does not mean that some old sayings and wise thoughts are not without merit. More importantly, there is another moral here, which is that few things should simply be taken for granted. According to Spender, there might also be a place for procrastination in our lives. If this is true, then we may be well advised to put off doing some things until tomorrow. Perhaps, after a good night sleep, further reflection or simply having a better day, tackling the task that feels overwhelming today will be easier tomorrow. Often I do not know where to start or what I need to do. If I put the job off for a while, I can talk to others or do some further research. I am then able to come back to the task feeling more confident and competent.

Are you driven by doing things today that might be better handled tomorrow? Do you always tackle the task even when you are not quite sure what you should be doing? What sort of things do you think you would be better putting off doing until you have some help or more guidance? What should you put off doing today, since you might just do a better job tomorrow or the day after?

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