There’s a trend I keep noticing in my mood and my stress levels every time I have to do something: the better I prepare for that, the less stress I have.
The better you prepare, the better the results tend to be. It sounds obvious, so obvious that seems stupid to write about it.
But I’m writing about this because what I have noticed is that we only apply this concept to certain situations. For example, people know that if they want to practice some physical activity, and improve their performance in any type of physical competition, they need to practice and prepare for it.
The same thing happens when you have a great challenge ahead of you. Do you have a presentation in front of the board of directors of your company? It’s probable that you will practice and do some rehearsals before the actual presentation.
Off course, it’s easy to deduct that you need to prepare to tackle those “big activities” that bring a lot of stress and anxiety to your life. But what happens with the regular activities that we do on a daily basis, that are constantly absorbing our energy and contributing to increasing our stress levels (even without us noticing it)?
What surprises me the most is that we don’t realize that we also need to prepare ourselves for some of our daily activities. We don’t see the picture: If we prepare for those activities, we would be less stressed during a regular day.
As the body needs preparation, so does the mind.
Have you noticed that some people have a natural tendency to make everything go well? And no matter what happens, they (almost always) have the situation under control?
And sometimes, those same people seem that they are very distracted.
My theory is that these people have prepared themselves to manage their jobs and their daily activities in a way that, no matter what happens, they are ready to confront that. They plan, they train and they know the different scenarios in which a specific situation could transform.
We think is a natural tendency to do things well and to don’t have problems in their lives. But the reality is different: Is not a natural tendency, is not inertia, is just that they are prepared.
And that’s why they seem so distracted with a lot of things: Because they focus on the things that really matter in the moment, and they forget everything else. That’s why they appear to be “distracted people”, but in reality, they are prepared to be focused only on the things they need to be focused on.
It’s also a matter of learning how to manage energy and to decide how to distribute that energy spending. One of the differences between this kind of people and the rest of the world is that they prepare themselves to have the correct amount of energy to spend on the important things when they appear.
So far, these are the variables or aspects I have identified will determine your level of preparation for any situation:
– Realize that your most valuable assets and resources are your time and energy. These are finite resources, so you have to do a correct allocation of them.
– Be aware that you can only focus on a limited number of things. Being indifferent about the rest (unimportant) things around you.
– Not only the “big” or “important” things require preparation. Most of the times, we ignore that the sum of the “little” things creates the majority of our daily stress levels. We need to prepare to face and manage those daily, “little” activities too.
– “Preparation” doesn’t necessarily mean something complex or something that takes a lot of time. In many cases, it just only means doing a little change in a routine. That preparation will help us to be less stressed.
A lot of us have to deal with a situation with our brains: many times, we feel that to change a behavior or a situation, we need to make a big change or put a lot of effort to do it. The brain, by default, undervalues the impact that little changes could have to help us change that behavior.
When we think that we need to “prepare” for something, we think of a marathon. In some cases, preparation is that exhaustive, but other times are much faster and simple. Stop associating the concept of “preparation” with something necessarily complex.
Just think about it. How many times have you arrived at your office, and you just open your email and start working by inertia, not even being conscious of what you are doing? That’s when inefficiency kicks in when you are not conscious of what you are doing.
If you were prepared, you could be improving or thinking about better ways to do your work. But we don’t care, we are unprepared, so we do it as always. The problem? In the afternoon, you could be stressed because you didn’t have time to do other things, other things that maybe were the really important things. We let inertia guide our work.
So, let’s think about some ways to prevent that the inertia takes control of our lives. Let’s think how to prepare better:
– When you go to work, don’t open your email first thing in the morning. Do one meaningful activity before checking the email, it doesn’t matter if it’s something “small”. Remember, the sum of the smalls things is what really helps us to be less stressed.
– After you do that meaningful activity, make a list. What are those one or two things that, if you do them during the day, you will feel you win the day? Just take a Post-it and write those two things.
– Talk more with yourself. Before a meeting, or a presentation or before talking with someone about something, practice with yourself. Practice your speech in your head, or talk out loud. Convince yourself about what you’re saying. If you don’t convince yourself, what makes you think you can convince someone else? As we need to prepare before doing physical activity (stretching) we should also stretch our minds.
Remember, as the body needs preparation, so does the mind…