This proverb is a counsel of prudence. Timely action very often prevents a great loss. Steps taken early means less labour, better success, less chance of loss or damage. Suppose their is a slight rent, in your garment or crack in the enbankment. If you put in a few timely stitches and repairs, further mischief may well be prevented.
Similarly, if you do not attend to your books at the proper time, when the examination comes, you are at sea, you will be unable to cope with the situation. A small banyan shoot is noticed appearing in the crevices of a building; uproot it immediately; it will save the house; delay may mean great loss, perhaps ultimate destruction.
A crack in the embankment of river will widen to let in flood waters to cause disaster if it is not plugged and repaired in time. It is so in all spheres of life. In politics, a problem left unsolved for long, often leads to disaster; tackled in time it saves a world of troubles. In small things as in great, in one's household as in one's business, in all circumstances, promptness in action means profit; delay means loss.
But the average, man is easy-going and indolent. He seldom likes to do a thing today when he can put it off till tomorrow. That is why the average man has this habit of not doing a thing promptly, of delaying and postponing till it is too late to mend. A schoolboy has been given tasks for his vacation. The work is not pleasant, he postpones, and he waits for a time when he has no gossip or game on hand. This reminds us of the words of Chesterfield to his son—"It is an undoubted truth that the less one has to do, the less one finds time to do it." While we are idling, time slips by and opportunities are wasted. Procrastination is, indeed, the thief of time.
Causes of delaying action are born of feeling of complaisance too and much dependence on luck. A character of Dickens, Micawbar took loans and spent the amount thoughtlessly "in the expectation of something to turn up tomorrow." He was finally ruined. The golden hour of opportunity slips by, and what might have been easy becomes extremely difficult, as it is to make up the arrears. Sometimes one complains that he had no luck. But, as the proverb goes, 'we make our fortune and call it fate'. But proper steps taken at the proper time would have eliminated difficulties.
Hence, we should make up our mind to act promptly to strike at once. "Never leave till tomorrow what you can do today", was the motto of Benjamin Franklin. We must at all times be well prepared for all things. The shiftless man is always at his wit's end. So he seeks, falls back. But the capable man takes immediate steps because he is ready at all times. If he had a rent in his garment, he knows where to find needle and thread to mend it.
There is one circumstance where action may be deferred. It is where you find that action is unnecessary and hastiness is not advisable. Suppose the garment- that is rent is badly worn out, probably beyond repair. To mend it today will not end your troubles. Hence as a corollary, we may add, — never sacrifice prudence to haste. Premature action also is unwise, because something may occur that may make you regret. It is wise to be cautious. "Look before you leap" is a maxim of wisdom.