Like most people I have stuff to do outside of work and, as any homeowner will know, there seems to be a never ending list of jobs that need attention. Several (more than ten) weeks ago we decided that the ridiculous flower border at the bottom of the garden needed to go. It was full of old bushes and plants and the space could be much better utilised. We could gain a decent amount of extra lawn, which would be great for when the grandsons visit, and still have space to put some shingle at the back to separate it from the fence. So, the shingle was duly purchased and I, having ensured my fitness monitor was fully charged, set about digging up the plants.

And that was my biggest mistake! I started the work, no need to think about it, just get on and enjoy doing a bit of manual labour outside at the weekends…….English weather permitting obviously. It started well, the shingle arrived as expected and I was able to create, even if I say so myself, a rather attractive feature at the very bottom of the garden. The next stage proved more difficult. I needed to make the rest of the area weed free and level in order to lay turf, but I figured that would be easy enough, start digging on the left and slowly work across. However, the garden had other ideas.

The problems were, in no particular order:

  • Random sloping meaning “level” was an alien concept
  • Plants with roots that appeared to have no end
  • Various “experts” (wife, children, parents and friends) who all seemed to know a better way to achieve the desired result
  • Stones….no, boulders, actual boulders just below the surface and only ever discovered via a bone jarring impact with my spade
  • and many more too tedious to mention but, as with all those listed above, easily predicted with a little forethought.

Which was the mistake I referred to earlier……no forethought so no plan. No consideration as to the best approach, or what tools would be required, or whether hiring a mechanical device might be worth the investment, or how I would test how level the earth was, or where to dispose of the excess soil and so on seemingly ad infinitum. In my defence, when I started this I looked at what needed doing and thought “a bit of digging, how hard can that be?” Nearly three months later, with the task nearing completion, I have a much better idea of how hard it can be but what really irritates me is that I have always been an advocate of the “ten minutes planning saves an hour of activity” school of thought. Why oh why didn’t I apply that principle in this case? Probably because I’ve always been an advocate of it as a school of thought but I’m a complete hypocrite when it to comes to applying it.

I start far too many tasks, mostly at work, without taking a few minutes to think about what’s required. I dread to think how many hours, days or weeks (please don’t let it be worse than that!) I’ve wasted in my life because I just “got on with it”. A famous American sports coach once said “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” Things mainly get done wrong because not enough thought went into it in the first place, so I thought I’d share this as a reminder of something we all know very well and for which many phrases and sayings exist (proper preparation prevents etc., etc., etc), but we often ignore them. So next time you’re about to start a task remember my garden and just take a few minutes to think about what lies ahead. Good luck with whatever it is!