blog, garden, Pat Aitcheson writes

Do one thing for a better future

Snowdrops in my garden, Feb 2018

Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.
Warren Buffett

We often make resolutions and set goals at the turn of the year.

Thinking about the future and planning for it is crucial to success. As a gardener and a writer, I know this is true. I can’t harvest what I did not sow, nor can I sow where I have not prepared the ground.

As January’s list of goals is forgotten and our resolve crumbles, there is one thing we all can do every day to get ahead. It is not cold showers, waking at five o’clock to meditate, or wearing the same outfit, which no doubt work for some but fill me with horror. Especially the cold shower.

Do one thing your future self will thank you for.

It could be a big thing or a tiny thing. It could be for the long-term or for tomorrow. But sometime between waking and sleeping again, despite being consumed by the busyness of the day-to-day, cast your mind forwards. Here are a few ideas.

  • Lay out your clothes for the next day
  • Write down that story idea or line of dialogue
  • Check your insurance is up to date
  • Make that call you’ve been avoiding
  • Exercise for ten minutes
  • Read a chapter
  • Drink a glass of water
  • Make your bed
  • Cook double quantities of meals and freeze half
  • Take the stairs
  • Put the laundry on before you leave
  • Tell them you love them

The gardeners reading this will nod sagely, already thinking ahead to a new season in the natural calendar. Years ago I braved a bitter day to plant a few bulbs that didn’t look like much. The pay-off was not immediate. But now, with little to no extra effort, the snowdrops above cheer up dreary winter days. And every year there are more.

We underestimate the power of compounding

The billionaire Warren Buffett is a financial legend. He buys carefully and holds for the long-term, much like a gardener planting trees. The value comes in compound interest and re-investing dividends. In the same way, daily actions add up over time to a significant return. Whether we invest in ourselves or in external achievements, starting early and persisting is the key to finishing our novel or building up a pension plan.

Often we think that it is the big gestures, the grand flourish that gets the winner to the podium. But more often, building one small deed on another over time brings the biggest rewards. No deed is too small, provided we keep doing it.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

So, what will you do today, and tomorrow, and on into the future?
Whether it’s saving £5 a week, or kissing your SO every day, you’ll be delighted with the return on your investment. Start now.