At school, it was common for half the class to claim they hadn’t done much revision for an exam. Or the rare (but bizarre) occasion 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 – others are given less thought. We often leave these to unfold naturally which rarely helps us get the most from the interaction.
Here are three everyday situations you should be preparing 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
- Do these quick exercises
- Reach for a book, not your phone
- Drink your morning tea or coffee without any distractions
Preparing for different tasks
Just as you would boot up your laptop before working or stretch before exercise, it helps to ease yourself into different tasks. Particularly when it 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 start generating ideas.
If switching between completely unrelated tasks – like chairing a meeting before sitting down to read a report – allow time to get into the right frame of mind for this. 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. In Anthony Bourdain’s series ‘Parts Unknown’, he met someone in Canada who touched on this point. He spoke about the importance of preparing discussion topics, anecdotes to share or questions to ask 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. As guests, we should all shoulder that responsibility.
This idea of planning conversation shouldn’t become a burden but it can be extended to any social situation. Particularly if it’s a more professional setting, try and find out who might 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 any pressure or anxiety you might normally feel in new situations. This can help you relax and increase the likelihood of appearing confident and interesting. As a result, people are more likely to want to get to know you, be more inclined to think of inviting you to social events and you’ll stand out in their mind when opportunities arise. Preparing for these everyday situations can only be a good thing.