I can’t be alone in half-believing friends at school who claimed not to have done much revision for an exam. Or when a manager at work would throw out a casual, ‘What’s this meeting about?’ before proceeding to lead it, answer questions and provide strategic, tailored and relevant advice to the client. It didn’t take long for me to realise they had, of course, prepared extensively.
While there are situations we all know to prepare for – exams, interviews, presentations – other situations are given less thought. We often leave these to unfold naturally which doesn’t help us get the most out of our interactions with others.
Here are three situations you should care to prepare for.
Preparing for the day
So much has already been written about creating a morning routine but I couldn’t write this without mentioning its importance.
Without taking time to do this, we can all fall back into our repetitive, unconscious habits. We’ll have similar thoughts to the day before and go through the same motions without even thinking. Consciously being aware of our state of mind each morning can be hugely beneficial to set up the day for success.
Here are a few ideas how:
· Set intentions for the day
· Reach for a book, not your phone
· Drink your morning tea or coffee without doing anything else
Preparing for different tasks
Just as you boot up your laptop before working or stretch before exercise, it helps to warm up before taking on different tasks. Particularly when the work involves concentration and focus.
This is something Grace Beverley discusses in her book, ‘Working Hard, Hardly Working’. In it, she talks about ‘time-blocking’ her work based on the tasks she has to complete. Grouping similar tasks together can help you get, and stay, in the zone when it’s time to focus.
If the task is to write an article, ease into it by writing about any other subject first. Alternatively, reading or watching a related article, blog, or video can help concentrate the mind and spark ideas.
If switching between completely unrelated tasks - like chairing a meeting before sitting down to write an article – allow time to get into the right frame of mind for the shift in focus. Try breathing exercises or a short journaling session to help feel more calm and composed.
Preparing to socialise
There is an art to being a good dinner party host but being a good guest also requires skill. When watching Anthony Bourdain’s series ‘Parts Unknown’ in Canada, someone he met there touched on this point. He spoke about the importance of preparing discussion topics, anecdotes or questions to share with the group, in advance.
Good conversation is as essential to a successful dinner party as the food yet it’s often given the least planning and thought. Any guest also shoulders that responsibility.
This idea of planning conversation doesn’t need to be a burden but it can be extended to any social situation. Particularly in more professional settings like a conference or interview, try and find out who will be attending and research what they’ve been working on recently. This will provide a more interesting starting point for conversation and show you to be someone who is informed, engaged and interested.
You can even prepare for unexpected situations like bumping into a distant acquaintance when out for coffee. Think about what you’ve been doing recently so you have more to say than ‘Oh, you know, not much…’ in response to them asking what you’ve got up to lately.
Preparing what to say in any environment will help to reduce pressure or anxiety you might normally feel in new situations. This preparation can also increase the likelihood of appearing confident, interesting and engaging. As a result, people are more likely to want to get to know you, be more inclined to think of inviting you to other events and you will stand out in their mind when other opportunities arise.