The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!
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 an 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 originally wrote this blog quite a while ago and this went 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 curveballs.
- 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 curveballs by commenting below!