Preparation Boosts Results


One of the most neglected boosters of productivity and success is preparation. Years ago, I worked with some very successful people whose idea of preparation before important meetings with a client was limited to talking things over at lunch for an hour immediately beforehand.

Although that hour of preparation was undoubtedly helpful to them, they were regularly outmaneuvered, outclassed, and outperformed by a rival team that prepared for every important client meeting like it meant life or death.

Preparation is powerful because it gives you extra opportunities to:

  • Organize and supplement your resources so they’re readily available when you need them at crucial moments,
  • Carefully think, re-think, and finely hone your tactics, strategies, and responses to possible surprises,
  • Bolster your confidence to eliminate unnecessary anxiety, negativity, and errors,
  • Work yourself into a high-energy, optimistic frame of mind, to increase your chances of delivering a peak performance.

Here are some guidelines for the basic moves you can employ to make sure you are well prepared for any or all of the upcoming important moments in your work and your life:

Seek Motivation

Upcoming important moments rarely happen in a vacuum. They take place in a context that usually offers various elements of meaning, danger, and opportunity. In other words, important and perhaps long-term consequences will surely flow from how well or how poorly you perform in your upcoming important moment.

You‘ll generally prepare and perform better if you mentally highlight the most relevant of these elements, and allow their potential consequences to increase your motivation.

Imagine the Worst

You can gain a performance advantage when you spend a portion of your preparation time thinking about everything that can possibly go wrong for you in the upcoming important moment.

This is helpful for two reasons: First, it creates opportunities for you to develop responses, work-arounds, and back-up plans you can put into effect if, as, and when necessary.

Second, and perhaps more important, imagining the worst will automatically help you view whatever actually does happen in that important moment as “not so bad.” This will allow you to retain more confidence and behave with more aplomb.

Zero in on Key Outcomes

Imaging the worst will also help you identify the critically important outcomes you most want to achieve by maneuvering through this important moment.

You can then focus on these primary outcomes as benchmarks or milestones, and steadily work toward them as the important moment unfolds.

When you come away with these primary outcomes accomplished, you will have every right to feel good about what you have achieved. And if you are able to realize more of those outcomes you wanted, you’ll likely feel even better!

Clear for Action

Part of your preparation for an important upcoming moment should be to put things in order so you can stay fully involved in the moment, free from extraneous worries. Now you know one reason pilots make a visual inspection of an airplane before they attempt to fly it.

This aspect of preparation can involve actions as simple as fueling up your car, preparing your clothes, or putting any presentation materials into final form. If you’re worried about something, take a moment to make the proper adjustment or eliminate the potential problem before it can actually happen.

In the old days, we would sharpen our pencils, but the principle remains the same: get the mundane details under control so you don’t get sidetracked or roadblocked by some overlooked weakness or shortfall as you strive toward the best possible outcome of your upcoming important moment.

Prepare Mentally

At the levels you’re operating, skills and abilities are very often adequate to the task, project, or goal at hand. What’s less certain is your attitude.

That’s why you should direct some of your preparatory efforts toward getting your mind right. You’ll perform better if you’re feeling positive, confident, calm, and comfortable in the upcoming important moment. You can use meditation, affirmation, relaxation, visualization, and/or other techniques for this – whatever works for you.

Study the Big Picture

Much of your preparation should tightly focus on the upcoming important moment. But it’s also helpful to spend at least a little time and energy putting this moment into a larger perspective:

  • How did you get to this moment?
  • Why do you deserve to be here?
  • How does this upcoming moment compare with your experience of past moments? With expectations of possible future moments?
  • How will the outcome of this moment impact your trajectory?

The idea here is to appreciate your personal context and recognize this: your upcoming important moment is just one fairly small part of your overall work and life – important, but probably not weighty enough to overshadow everything else.

The overall goal of all these preparatory efforts is to get you ready – both practically and emotionally – to deliver your best in the upcoming important moment.

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