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Preparation as a Key to Success

For over 20 years, I have been helping businesses and professionals resolve business work flow, organizational and operational problems.

Preparation may seem dull and time-consuming when all you really want to do is dive into a project and start feeling like you've accomplished something. Especially when the deadlines are tight. But an ounce of prevention can mitigate a pound of intervention. Spending some time at the beginning of a project getting organized and mapping out a plan can save a ton of wasted time later in re-doing work or helpers twiddling thumbs because you don't know what work to give them next. In addition, taking the time to follow proper procedures can prevent problems from emerging later that waste time, present the company poorly to clients and put unnecessary stress and anxiety on co-workers.

Making the Leap from Worker to Manager

As we progress up the corporate ladder of responsibility, we may find ourselves moving from a worker bee role to one of management, even if our job title doesn't include the word. The job of a worker bee is to follow orders and tick things off the proverbial "To Do" list as fast as reasonably possible. But when you move into a managerial role, the deeply embedded idea of 'gotta get it done' may actually hinder your ability to manage.

Managers need to take a step back from the hustle and bustle and learn to spend time preparing, delegating and communicating. From the worker bee mindset, those things seem very intangible and may leave you feeling like you haven't 'done' anything. But ignoring those role requirements may mean that those you manage don't actually do anything, because you haven't take the time to tell them what needs doing, or you haven't taken enough time to make sure they understand what you are asking for. It is also important for managers to consider the needs the of each individual worker and tailor their style of communication and instruction to the needs of that worker to maximize their potential.

The deeply embedded idea of 'gotta get it done' may actually hinder your ability to manage.

— - Cheryl Evans

Knowledge is Power

One of the best methods to prepare for future events is to document the current ones. Knowledge is Power. Taking some time now to document step-by-step what you've just done to fix a problem or configure a feature means, that next time the same thing needs to be done, you can delegate that task to someone else, because all you need to do is point them to the article that spells out, step-by-step, what they need to do. Taking an hour now to document a process that will be repeated, saves you two hours in 3 months and again in 6 months and again and again and again, every time you don't need to figure out the process again and then do it or teach it to someone else. Don't re-invent the wheel, document the invention and then let someone else make it.

Don't re-invent the wheel, document the invention and then let someone else make it.

— -Cheryl Evans

Project Planning to Keep Focused

Looking at the scope of an entire project can be daunting, even down right overwhelming. When a project is broken down in to small parts and specific tasks, it becomes easy to focus on each small task and move from one to the next with efficiency. Planning out a project and identifying tasks and deadlines is a key step to preparing for the work ahead. This process can be learned. You can learn how to organize yourself and your work and by doing so, you will get more work done in less time with less stress. When faced with a new project, the first thing to identify is the deadline. Next, break the project down into key thematic chunks of work. These will be your milestones. Estimate deadlines for each milestone so that you will meet your ultimate deadline. If you are using Planner, a Kanban style organizer, those Milestones will become your columns or buckets. Then, take each Milestone and break it down further into the tasks necessary to achieve that milestone. Organize those tasks in sequence, and voila, you have a project plan to keep you on point.

Daily and Weekly Preparation

Perhaps your work is not project based or spans multiple projects. Daily and weekly preparation then becomes key to maintaining focus and accomplishing goals. At the start of each day, don't just jump into the first email you see and start replying. Start each day with preparation.

  • Maintain a task list, including a calendar
  • Review the existing tasks
  • Review all new communications and add items to the task list. If they are date specific, such as a meeting, add a reference to those tasks to the calendar.
  • Prioritize the task list
  • Using the calendar and task list, Identify the tasks you expect to accomplish by the end of the day
  • Now start working.

Every Monday, review the task list and calendar to get an idea of how your week will look. Block out any necessary large chunks of time for meetings or big tasks.

Key Points

  • Preparation is essential, not optional
  • Being prepared increases efficiency, saving time and money
  • Failure to be prepared puts customer satisfaction at risk
  • Lack of preparation increases employee stress, anxiety, absenteeism, and burn out.
  • Prepare through managing task lists and documenting processes.

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