Monday, April 18, 2011

In Defense of Procrastination

Federal income tax returns are due today, and for anyone who is filing an extension, here's an item from the Register-Star for February 25, 1871, that can make you feel a little better about your decision. 

A Proverb Criticised
Among the many proverbs that apparently have a great deal of wisdom, but which need a little analysis before accepting, is that which declares we should not "put off until to-morrow that which can be done to-day." Now, this proverb is erroneous in philosophy, and, if strictly followed, would often lead to a great deal of mischief. While nothing should be delayed beyond the proper hour for its doing, nothing, on the other hand, should be performed or executed until the proper hour arrives. If, in obedience to the instruction of the proverb quoted, we pursue the plan of doing everything to-day that can be done to-day, we shall soon discover that we do a great many things needlessly, and a great many things wrongly.

To-morrow often throws a new light upon a thing; to-morrow may develop new circumstances, bring in new conditions, alter essentially all the bearings, and hence require the "doing" to be entirely different; and time also settles many matters, so that if a thing is left until to-morrow it may not be necessary to do it at all. A general never fights a battle so long as he can postpone it. A lawyer never brings a suit to trial so long as he can hope for new developments or additional facts. Wise men in all things never delay a moment when the crisis comes. "Do nothing to-day that you can postpone until to-morrow" is the cunning of policy, and the craft of diplomatists; but "do everything to-day that ought to be done to-day" is the true wisdom of life, and to this expression the proverb should be amended. 

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