You may find yourself in a situation when you need to do something for the first time or maybe you’ve already done it previously before, but only a few times, which makes you feel excited and/or anxious about engaging with it right now. For these situations, taking time to prepare can have a huge positive impact on how you handle yourself; leaving a good impression to anyone that you interact with during that time frame. From my own experience, I’ve gathered some tips and practical analogies that have helped me, in hopes they will help you mentally prepare before tackling a similar situation.
Prepare like you would for a client
Whenever you need to demo a simple feature or a complex multi-sprint epic for a client, you outline all the Acceptance Criteria on a piece of paper and ensure that they are in working order before the demo so that all requirements presented work properly during the demo. In the same manner, preparing a checklist with the things you need to do for your upcoming task or new responsibilities, will make up the foundation of your “attack plan,” giving you answers or action tasks for the most important priorities.
Learn to be prepared as if your next career move depends on it
Consider this scenario: you need to take a client discussion soon, not immediately, but soon. What do you do – put off and tackle more high priority items? I find it important to have sufficient time to prepare for such an important task, and treat it as potential to be my next big career defining opportunity. Start by reviewing your existing skills; highlighting what you are confident on and adding newer, relevant information that you have solid knowledge that will be of interest to the client. The people talking to you need to know that you are engaged with more than just bringing a robotic response like, “yes, sir” to the demonstration.
Refresh your theoretical knowledge, outline technologies/abilities from the list if you need to – for example, if you’ve worked with certain technologies on a project that was a decade ago, showcase it! This may attract related questions, and spur related thoughts that will showcase you and your abilities in the best light. It’s important though, that you don’t treat this as a bullet point presentation with timeframes spent on different projects without some particular details on your responsibilities there. This type of presentation tells the client that you did what you needed to do, but you aren’t engaged in interacting and highlighting how you accomplished your work in conjunction with the team. Spending time preparing for your next client discussion makes you feel more confident in yourself, significantly reducing anxiety that you may have on the day of the meeting.
Preparation is a building block for success
All professionals should be prepared. The better prepared you are, the more chances you have for success. Just as a dentist reviews your x-ray before pulling out the tooth or lawyers go over the case before entering a courtroom or physicians ask lots of questions to understand your health history before rolling you into the operating room – preparation is vital to success. Imagine if any of these professionals went about their daily routines without being prepared? You would probably never go back.
The same goes for your clients. They deserve to have a knowledgeable, reliable professional on their side – they’ve turned to your for your expertise. Before you ever walk into a meeting room or even speak with a client, ask yourself, “Would I be impressed by my preparation?”
We’ve all walked into a meeting room with little to no preparation. It’s never a good feeling. Do your homework. Your client, and the business as a whole, will thank you for it.
Preparation goes hand in hand with discipline
Learn the habit of taking the steps to be prepared. Make it your routine, just like going to the gym three times a week, learn to prepare. Set aside time in your day. The act of becoming prepared means that we discipline ourselves to allow the time to do it. This disciple “happens” when we get over the feeling of “I don’t feel like doing this now,” and when we put off procrastination – overlooking the excuses. Discipline is when we are mindful with our actions.
A winning effort begins with preparation
A company wide, semi-marathon is coming up in the next couple of months and you decide to take part of it with little to no prior running experience. The race date gets closer and you’ve run once or twice as part of your “planned training.” Now, you’re feeling anxious about the event, with fears that you won’t finish the race or that you’ll be ridiculed by your colleagues for finishing last. Sound familiar? I’ve been there – more than once! The key difference in the races where I performed well was the preparation. Making the race important in my head and actively training for it week in and week out made a huge difference in the finish time. For any task, there is no “enough” preparation. You always need to push yourself to be better prepared, as there is no such thing as a perfect run.
Similarly, when you need to write up an important document or an email to a client it is equally important to prepare the email. When I started my career in QA, I was fortunate to play a role in projects with great mentors; one giving me a piece of advice that will always stick with me: “When you are just an engineer, you read your emails twice before sending them, and when you level up in your role, make a habit to read them four times.” This mentor was the director of the company I was working for at the time. As you probably already know, success takes time, and most of it is dedicated for task preparations. No task is too small to prepare for.
The best way to handle difficult situations is with optimism, focus and the prepared knowledge you set time aside for. Remember, at the end of every experience there is something to be learned. Be mindful as you prepare for your journey or next task. Before long, you’ll be over the hump and on the downhill slope.
Facing any life or work challenge can be scary or filled with anxiety, but being prepared for it makes it a lot easier to handle. Preparation in most aspects of your life will amaze you – showcasing to you and others around how strong and capable you are – even when times get tough.