I have one very distinctive personality trait that I can remember possessing as far back as grade school, throughout college and I still exhibit it to this day. It’s that I love to be over prepared. So much so, that I sometimes plan for extreme scenarios (coming down with pneumonia, driving off with my laptop on the hood of my car, sustaining a small house fire) and get my ducks in a row early and often so that I wouldn’t miss a beat, personally and professionally, should any of this happen.
In school, I would begin and often complete a semester-long project during the first 2 months. I would spend the rest of that time working ahead on other coursework – or as I did my senior year – starting my own PR consulting business. I often had fellow classmates or roommates ask me why I would work ahead when I didn’t have to. My response was always something along the lines of “I’d rather know I have it done now than risk something coming up later and not being able to finish it in time.” Yes, I sounded like a nerd then (and I still sort of am), but this personality trait proved to be a very strategic time management technique that has served me well throughout my life.
For all those times that I prepared and worked ahead on something and never got sick, injured or had technology malfunction on me, I was rewarded with free time to use however I wished. Sometimes I would work on other projects and sometimes I would simply relax. I also graduated college in the top 2 percent of my class without ever having to pull and all-nighter (where’s my plaque for that?).
I still plan in advance and have developed quite a few time-saving hacks that allow me to set my own schedule, take unlimited vacation days and travel throughout the year. When I’m in the groove, I work hard. For example, I’m actually writing this blog on January 2nd – Happy New Year! And this published live while I was playing with my son.
Being prepared has helped me to look like a professional and serve my clients well. It’s one of the things I am most complimented on and I take it very seriously. So how do I manage to stay ahead of the curve balls life so often throws our way? Here are 4 tips I personally use to be prepared for absolutely anything in life.
- Train in all areas of life
During “crunch time” when I have many projects that all seem to need to be delivered on the exact same day, I’ve found mental toughness to be a great asset. A daunting to-do list can be paralyzing, but if you can push through this mental barrier and just start somewhere, anywhere, that is 80 percent of the battle. I’ve found my own mental toughness to be closely linked to my physical strength. This is why, in addition to being a passionate entrepreneur, I remain a dedicated athlete. Physical activity is a part of my daily routine and I prioritize it.
I’ve had people ask me, “What are you training for?” My response is always, “Life.” It’s true. I am always training for life and that includes physically, mentally and spiritually. If you are equally strong in all three of these areas, you will be better equipped to handle whatever life throws your way.
- Clear your bandwidth daily
I refer to my workload capacity as my “bandwidth” and I have found that I can accommodate far more tasks than I ever thought possible if I make a conscious effort to clear this bandwidth daily. I try and zero-out my task list each night so that I can start each day with a clean slate and a narrowed down list of true priorities. If I can do it now, I do. This technique has allowed me to jump on spur of the moment projects and other work opportunities that I would have had to pass up had I not had the clear bandwidth. It also greatly reduces the stress that comes with a full day’s work combined with emergency projects or unexpected setbacks like a sick kid.
- Be productive not “busy”
There is a difference between being productive and being busy. I’m sure you can think of at least one person you know who always gripes about being so “busy” yet you know there isn’t that much on their to-do list or that they waste time in various ways. Productive people accomplish just as much (often more) than a busy person in far less time. It’s the concept of working smarter, not harder.
When I get in the zone on a work project, I shut out all other distractions (no TV, muted phone, no social media, no other windows open on my computer) and accomplish the task in half the time it would take me if I was multitasking. Aim to be productive, not busy and you will be far more resilient when reacting to life’s curve balls.
- Celebrate when everything goes as planned!
Finally and most importantly, stop and enjoy the free time you’ve earned by being prepared. As I mentioned, I often use this time to work ahead on pet projects or relax with “me time.” It all depends upon my mood. Planning ahead is not meant to be a trap where you continue working endlessly, rather it’s about working efficiently and using the time this hard work has earned you to do other things you love!
Do you feel prepared for the obstacles that life throws at you or are you often blind-sided and left scrambling to pick up the pieces? Tell me how you prepare (or want to better prepare) yourself to handle life’s curve balls by commenting below!
11 thoughts on “How to Be Prepared for Absolutely Anything in Life”
Great points Stephanie.
I took note of where I can improve. Very practical, so with awareness and commitment anyone can be more productive. Thanks.
Thank you for the comment Keith! I’m glad you found some points to which you could relate. I think you hit the nail on the head by saying the end goal is simply to be more productive with our time. Certainly, there will be curve balls we cannot dodge, but if we are productive and effective, we can recover much quicker than those who are not.
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Stephanie I appreciate your tenacity. I’ve known a few people like you would plan ahead, work to a ridiculous degree beyond deadlines, you lot are amazing. I could never get into that kind of groove, there was just never an idea in my head that said “Let’s get homework done now instead of later” Mainly because anything related to education in homework for was something I never considered fun or exciting.
That being said there are a few things I have worked in advanced for like my blog and I do see the advantages of planning ahead, I think also that it is a state of mind. You have to be in the right kind of mood to embark on such endavours and for me it only works on a select few things haha.
As always, thank you for the insightful comments! I don’t blame you for not always feeling motivated to work ahead. I, too, have my less than productive days. So long as the days in which we feel energized to go the extra mile occur more frequently, you will still be a prepared and resilient person. Great job on working ahead on your blog – a very smart idea, indeed!
I found myself nodding and smiling while I read your article. I agree with everything you have said and can particularly relate to what you said about mental toughness being related to physical strength. I too find that when I exercise regularly that I have so much more energy and can handle stress so much better. Regarding distractions, I am still struggling in that area as I seem to have an addiction for social media and simply just reading things of interest on the web. Thanks for sharing your experiences and all the best with all your endeavors.
Great thoughts! Yes, I see such a difference in my energy levels when I prioritize my time to include some sort of physical activity. It makes me more effective…and overall just happier! I’m glad to hear you can relate.
Excellent post, Stephanie! Like you, I tended toward the ‘nerd’ category in college, always working on a project in some form or fashion from day one, and that habit has served me well in my professional life as well. As a freelance writer, I’m always up against a deadline or one form or another, and getting my ducks in a row from the outset has saved my butt on numerous occasions. Ya never know, for example, when an interview subject is going to reschedule at the 11th hour and if you’ve waited til the day before YOU have to turn the piece in, you’ve just put yourself in a jam. Really enjoy and appreciate the practical, actionable advice your blog provides. Best, Lori
Thank you for the thoughtful reply! We sound like we have very similar work styles. I think it works particularly well for the freelance/consultant industries.
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