Preparation is key for success in all aspects of life. At least, that is my opinion. Some people may disagree with that and if you do, please leave a comment at the end of this article. Many people now think that to be defined as successful you have to be able to do things off the bat with no planning or forethought. The business world is full of people who think of the old sayings like act first, ask questions later. A quick profit is often thought of as the main motivation behind all of this. In this article we are going to look at the reasons why preparation is the key to success, and why a little work now will be amplified in the future.
Why I have written this article
I have written this article because I am a teacher – and I deal with pupils everyday who want to leave whatever work until the last possible second. This makes their life more difficult and so I got thinking about the topic of preparation – which lead me to writing some ideas down which leads to this article.
When you prepare something, you are getting all-important experience. Experience leads us to be able to a better job, as long as we evaluate what worked and what didn’t. By gaining that vital experience we can also work faster and more efficiently - skills that are highly valued in the workplace. Getting experience of doing certain things can be difficult. A medic wont start their career by cutting open a person to perform heart surgery; they will study in books then observe then practice small procedures then larger ones working up to doing the heart surgery after years of experience. Experience teaches us both through our failures and how to consider things that you might not expect to go wrong. Gaining experience, even if at the time you feel like it isn’t actually helping you move towards your end goal, will always help you in some way. Even if you do work experience at a bank or at a local school and hate every second of it, the fact that you have experienced that environment is a bonus (plus the fact that you know you don't want to work at one of those workplaces now).
Planning might be a synonym for preparation for some people, but for me it has a very distinct meaning. Planning refers to writing an exact list of what needs to be done such as a to do list, list of items to pack for a holiday or for a lesson or presentation. Preparation refers to this and practicing it so that you can actually put your planning to use. In order to succeed by preparing, planning is a pretty big aspect. In my opinion if you don’t plan, you are unlikely to succeed as your work will lack focus and you may, like I have done, be distracted by other things.
Focusing on a single task can help you to accomplish something in the quickest time and at the greatest quality (although perhaps not always both at the same time). Being able to have a single minded focus can help remove barriers to your success that you might previously have had that stopped you from succeeding. The links between preparation and focus are large. A little bit of preparation can remove distractions like phone calls, email alerts, and ad-hoc meetings. By preparing for times when you are going to output 100% focus you should find it much easier to succeed in life. This is particularly true when doing activities like writing or anything where you really need your brain engaged in order to do good work.
Outcomes are all important. Some people think the journey is the important part, and to many it may well be, but you are judged on your outcomes. That is, what you actually make, do or achieve. If you don’t meet the outcomes your manager wants you to meet, their expectations of you, you are highly likely to miss that promotion, raise or worse - get the sack or made redundant. You need to prepare well in advance and write detailed plans in order to succeed by meeting your outcomes. Every step needs to be mapped out with information on how you are going to meet that step. I think systems like GTD from David Allen work well for functioning in a workplace when you have tens or hundreds of outcomes. For most of us who manage our own products I think a text document filled with a list of how to achieve could work as well.
For a quick summary of this article – you can read the text below.
- Experience - You need experience in order to work, and preparing can give you experience even if you don’t think it does at the time.
- Planning - detailed plans can help you to organise yourself so you don’t waste time.
- Focus - Having a single-minded focus can break down roadblocks and help you succeed, even if you have to ignore seemingly important things at the time.
- Outcomes - focus on the outcomes rather than the journey to boost output, in a traditional work hierarchy they are only focused on how well you meet your outcomes, so your manager can meet theirs.
I am big on preparation and how it affects my experience, planning, focus and most importantly - outcomes. These are my views and I would enjoy reading comments whether you agree with me or not.
I think the fundamental idea is to prepare and think ahead. I try to be several steps ahead of everyone else, which can be difficult or impossible at times. I have found in the past that not keeping ahead of my peers, even if I’m only a little behind on meeting whatever outcomes, can have rather large impacts on my personal and professional life.
What do you think? Do you think preparation can affect how you work? Do you prefer outcomes or the journey to get there? Feel free to leave a comment below.