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Friday, 9 July 2021

Life’s stitches


By Jillian Viljoen

When I first heard the proverb “A stitch in time saves nine”, I wondered what stitches had to do with time. You can’t stitch time or are the stitches related to the number nine. And what if you don’t know how to sew or you don’t like sewing for that matter. What does this proverb actually mean?

This is an Old English proverb which conveys a valuable message.  I found the simplest way to understand this proverb is buttons. When the buttons on our clothing become a bit loose or we notice the cotton unravelling, what is the next thing that we expect to happen? We expect the buttons to fall off completely once the cotton holding them unravels. Can you imagine losing buttons on your shirt or blouse at work or in a store, especially the buttons that keep parts covered that we do not want exposed? How embarrassing. But would that have happened if we had stitched those buttons back on securely when we first noticed the cotton starting to unravel? We are now embarrassed and have to stop what we are doing to get a needle and cotton and sew the buttons back on. If the buttons fell off and we cannot find them, we need to buy replacements and we may not find similar ones to the ones that fell off. We may end up having to replace the other buttons which are still on the garment so that they all match the new ones. All this trouble, effort, time and money to try to rectify what was once a tiny issue but was allowed to deteriorate because we thought that we could use that garment one last time before securing the buttons. This is a simplistic explanation but I am sure that you get the gist.


This proverb can be applied to academia as well. When having to do assignments, essays, research papers or any task where deadlines are involved, it can be so tempting to wait until the last minute to try to get the information. The online resources are accessible at any time but what if there are no e-books available online which relate to your topic and it is now 10pm the night before the due date. What do you do? How do you get the relevant information, especially if you do not know how to use the library catalogue and databases to find articles because you did not attend any of the trainings because you thought that you would not need the training? What do you do if there is load shedding and you cannot access the library’s catalogue and databases? What if you did not realise that you had run out of data? How do you complete your task and submit the document on time? What did you accomplish by procrastinating?

Life’s journey involves problem solving and various challenges. Some of them are small and we may be
able to overlook them but some need to be addressed before they evolve into issues or challenges which become almost insurmountable. Granted, we may face challenges which require external assistance to address them but we do a lot of problem solving on our own as well. The point is not who solves the problems or challenges, but how quickly or how soon they are addressed. Let us save ourselves time and effort by trying to address issues immediately when they arise.

When it is tempting to procrastinate, just look at your buttons and imagine them all falling off in a public place. That should get you motivated.

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