Preparation is key for all professionals says Carole Spiers
Adequate preparation is not always fun and many of us do not look forward to doing it. It can often appear to be boring and uninteresting – particularly to those who love the ‘buzz’ of spontaneity. However, it can prove to be one of the most valuable skills that you can master in avoiding the build-up of stress and anxiety as deadline dates approach.
A large part of your working day probably entails dealing with, and managing, problems as they arise – a proportion of which may be completely unexpected leaving you the responsibility of reacting to them, unprepared. Of course, if a problem comes along that has been unforeseen, then it may be prudent to think about whether it could have been anticipated rather than having been caught unawares.
Preparation can be learnt
Preparation is a skill that can be learnt and which, with discipline and experience, improves over time. For some, planning and preparation may come naturally but for others, they invariably prefer to meet and deal with challenges and problems as they arise. The difference between being reactive and proactive is preparation. And the advantage of preparation is that you can manage problems more quickly and more efficiently because you will already have the solutions at hand ready to be implemented.
The important factor here is time – and as we all know, time is money! Successfully solving a problem in one hour is clearly preferable to having to maybe expend two, or even three hours upon dealing with it. An appropriate analogy might be tackling a fire in a warehouse. If there was a professional fire crew ready for action at a few moments notice, to be on site with fire-fighting equipment and water without delay, then valuable stock – and possibly also life – could be saved. Contrast this scenario with an unprepared fire crew who might take an hour to get to site to then find they had no access to water. Thousands of dollars’ worth of stock could have been destroyed, unnecessarily.
One of the keys to delivering a great presentation is preparation and, as a public speaker, I know that only too well. There are many issues that I need to take into consideration before I walk on stage – the audience profile, their level of experience and knowledge base, their expectations, details of the venue where the event is due to take place. As a speaker, I need answers to these questions and many others before I even start to prepare the content of the presentation.
So, preparation is key for me, as it is for all professionals.
It may not be a presentation that you are going to deliver, but it could be a report that you need to finish, an action plan that needs writing, a proposal that needs in-depth research or perhaps preparing for a very important job interview.
Let’s look at some issues that could help with preparation:
Do you understand what you are preparing? Do you know why you are doing it? If your work is part of a larger project, do you know what the overall objectives are and what it is that you are trying to accomplish? If the answers to these questions don’t make sense or they do not accord with your aims, then your preparation might be a waste of time.
Preparation isn’t all about seeing how fast you can get a job done. It’s more important to focus on doing it efficiently. This might mean that you have to revisit one particular area many times in order to perfect it. This is exactly what preparation is all about: fully understanding the problem and applying the necessary solution.
Set time aside
Because preparation is time-consuming, there are some individuals who try to avoid it, wherever possible. But if you task yourself to set aside a period of time that is probably more than you think you are going to need, you will feel very satisfied when you complete the task earlier with some time in hand.
- Preparation is essential, not optional
- Being prepared saves time and money
- Failing to anticipate puts you at a competitive disadvantage