Updated: Apr 27, 2020
"Hope is not a strategy."
"The best way to know your future, is to create it."
"Those who fail to plan, plan to fail."
I'm a sucker for a good quote. The three above are no exception. And they all came to mind as I thought about Episode 69 of The Vendor's Daughter podcast, where I interviewed Sarah Pendley, a PR Specialist, on how to navigate communication within your company during a crisis.
The two main takeaways were this:
1. you need to communicate transparently with internal and external stake holders
2. you need to plan for the worst case scenario, the best case scenario and all the scenarios in between
The problem is, that quite candidly, I am horrible at communication AND about planning ahead.
As you can imagine, these are not great short comings in someone who is supposed to be a leader. The thing is, if you are like me, not being good at these things naturally is not an excuse not to be good at them.
Being a good communicator and planning ahead are things that require practice, dedication and consistency. Unfortunately for me, someone who likes to create and move on to the next creation, they are also things that require a slow down.
What I'm learning is that, like with any skill, in order to be good at communicating, in order to be good at planning, you have to be willing to suck at first in order to get better.
What do I mean by that?
I mean not being naturally good at something isn't a valid reason not to try to be better. In fact, it's just lazy.
With any great endeavor we have to be willing to fail. We have to be willing to fall flat on our face, pick ourselves up, admit that the failure was embarrassing, apologize when needed and try again.
So if you are like me, and do not consider yourself a great planner here are some tips that have been helpful as I look to improve (we'll dig more into communication later);
Take the Time
Studies show that by simply taking 10 to 12 minutes to plan your day, you can save up to 2 hours in wasted time.
Do Not Be An Optimist
I am definitely a glass half full kind of girl, but believing everything will work out is definitely not the most effective way to plan. As you are planning your day, your week, a future project, an event, etc. take the time to consider possible things that could go wrong. This will:
potentially help you prevent these things from going wrong
allow you to respond quickly and efficiently if/when these things go wrong
Think Like an Editor
I always wanted to own my own magazine. I actually have rough drafts of what the first issue would look like saved on my old computer.
The thing about a great Editor is that every day they need to focus both on what needs done in the present moment but also what will need done in the future. Bon Appetit magazine shoots their Thanksgiving issue in July.
Grocery stores place their holiday candy orders months in advance. You get the idea.
Ask for Help
If you aren't great at planning ahead but you know someone who is. Ask them for help. Take them to coffee and ask for some of their tricks. Don't know anyone personally? Find a local boutique or a locally owned grocery store and ask them how they plan their seasonal items. (You might get someone who is grumpy at the ask, but there are a lot of people who are willing to share their knowledge and would welcome the chance to help someone else).
Keep Your Deadlines
If you call your shot, make it.
If you say a project is going to be done on a certain date. Make it happen. Even if that means you have to pull an all nighter to get it done.
I typically am not an advocate of losing sleep but there are two important things that happen when you make a deadline:
Your brain starts to take you seriously. If you have a friend who always bails on you last minute, there's a good chance that you do not really expect them to arrive on time or make that lunch date. The same is true with your brain. If you continually miss deadlines your brain is not going to take you seriously. Don't flake on yourself.
There is something beautiful that comes from pain. If you struggle to pull off a deadline you'll learn from that struggle. Meaning, you will either set a more realistic deadline next time or you'll improve your time management skills so you don't have to struggle so hard in the future.
In real life there aren't actually participation trophies. You either make your goals or you don't. You get the results or you don't. Results don't lie, so do yourself a favor and don't lie to yourself.
Start doing the hard work of planning ahead so that when you look back you'll be proud of how far you've come.
And if you haven't already done so, listen to Episode 69 of the Vendor's Daughter with Sarah Pendley of Sarah Theresa Communications.