Productivity is easier when you plan and prepare. Planning allows you to look ahead to what you’ll need to know and to do. Preparation helps you move forward in your plan without wasting time. Plan and prepare to be productive.TheExceleratedLife.com
Prepping to Run
Suppose you wanted to run a marathon. Suppose further that you’ve never actually run in any kind of race before. A marathon is 26.2 miles long. How successful do you think you’d be?
Not into running? Then suppose you wanted to bake a 6-tier wedding cake decorated with exquisite flowers. And suppose the only cakes you have ever baked came from a box. How successful do you imagine your wedding cake would be?
My guess in both cases is not very. Like all major endeavors, these require preparation and planning. You don’t just get up off the sofa and go run a marathon or bake an award-winning 6-tier cake.
You might start by running around the block, then running a bit further each day. Eventually, you could run a 3K race, then a 5K. With proper guidance, you could continue to train until you could run a 1/2 marathon, then at last a full marathon.
With the baking, perhaps you’d first bake a layer cake from scratch and practice making the flowers on it. I’m not a baker, but I suspect you’d bake a lot of cakes and make a lot of icing flowers before you were ready to tackle that 6-tier wedding cake.
What holds true for running long races and baking elaborate cakes is true for all of our BIG (Bold, Important, Gratifying) goals. If they sufficiently stretch us, we’re going to need to learn some things and take some practice. We’ll need to do some preparation.
Productivity Requires Preparation
In How Will You Measure Your Life?, Clayton M. Christensen shares an interesting finding by Morgan McCall, a professor at the University of Southern California. McCall studied fighter pilots, especially those who rose to the top of their field. These are the pilots that had the “right stuff”, according to Thomas Wolfe in his book by the same name — the ones chosen by NASA to become the first astronauts.
Contrary to popular belief, McCall found that the “right stuff” isn’t some innate ability these pilots were born with. Instead, they had had the “right experiences”. They had faced and overcome problems, honing their abilities. They were perhaps born with the potential, but it was the real-world experiences that gave them their superior abilities.
You and I need this kind of preparation if we are to accomplish our BIG goals. Christensen calls this the “school of experience” model. We need to wrestle with small problems in order to learn how to deal with the larger ones we’ll face on our way to our BIG goals. Because we prepare to be productive in big ways by being productive in small ways. We learn by doing.
“[G]oing through the right courses in the schools of experience can help people in all kinds of situations increase the likelihood of success,” writes Christensen. “Obviously, it will help a lot if you can work out which courses will be important for you to master before you need them.” [Christensen]
Of course, it isn’t possible to know in advance everything you’ll need to master on the way to your BIG goal. But, as James Ryan reminds us in Wait, What?, “even efforts that failed or were disappointing had something to teach us.” [Ryan] In fact, it is through failure that we learn our best lessons if we’re open to them.
So, think back to a recent time when something didn’t go as well as you planned. What did you need to know that you didn’t? Or what did you need to do that you didn’t know about or didn’t know how to do?
How about life today? Is there something you are not doing, not doing as well as you want to, or failing at right now? What do you need to know or to learn to be more productive in your endeavor?
Do you notice any similarities between your past experience and your current one?
Is there an endeavor you are just beginning or a project coming in the near future? Again, you likely aren’t yet aware of everything you’ll need to know. But you can begin to prepare to be productive.
What past experiences can you draw on to aid you in your current pursuit? What do you know you need to learn and to know before you get started?
Plan to be Productive
To help yourself prepare to be productive, start with a plan. Think about your answers to these questions. Write them down, if you feel so inclined.
- What do you need to learn?
- How will you learn it?
- When will you learn it?
- What do you need to do?
- How will you do it?
Prepare to be Productive
As the old saying goes, “Shxx happens”. It’s a given that for a BIG goal, not everything goes smoothly. Prepare for obstacles – or at least prepare to encounter some obstacles. You won’t start out knowing everything you’ll need to know (if it’s a stretch goal), but you can prepare for contingencies.
Let’s say, for example, that you want to run that marathon. How will you learn how to train? Will you work with a trainer? What happens if you have to travel out of town? What will you do? Suppose you sprain your ankle? How will you recover?
What do you need to prepare for in your own BIG goal?
What Do I Do Now?
How do you prepare to be productive? Here’s a start.
- Know your destination.
- Have a plan.
- When things go wrong, learn the lesson. (It isn’t “win or lose” but “win or learn”.)
Plan and Prepare
As we have seen, productivity is easier when you have “taken the right courses”. Planning allows you to look ahead to what you’ll need to know and to do. Preparation helps you move forward in your plan without wasting time. Planning and preparation permit you to deal with obstacles and use them as stepping stones to improve your knowledge and your performance. Plan and prepare to be productive. That is embracing your Excelerated Life™!
Excelerated Productivity™ — improving efficiency and effectiveness — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being, and a life of meaning, purpose, and service.
Christensen, Clayton M. How Will You Measure Your Life? New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2012.
Ryan, James E. Wait, What? And Life’s Other Essential Questions. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2017.