Lately, I have been noticing how much I love being prepared and ready for the things well in advance and what a difference it makes. I do this with appointments important meetings, projects, presentations, parties, deadlines, etc. For me, being prepared doesn't mean that I compulsively plan and schedule things years ahead in the future - I am not that type of a planner. Instead, I prefer a more relaxed and enjoyable approach. As soon as I find out about something important that needs to be done in the near future (from next week to the next 2-3 months), I start thinking about it and taking mental notes about what I will need.
For example, on in the beginning of this month, I had an hour-long tele-class, which was part of my graduation requirements from the ACT (ARTbundance Certification Training Program). I started thinking about the subject of my presentation about 2 months ago - just toying around with different ideas.
After about a week or two I "found" the perfect subject of my presentation - it was about Realizing Your Dreams. I've thought about it for several days and had an idea to share a story of how I was inspired to go to Italy after watching the documentary and reading the book "Under the Tuscan Sun" by Frances Meyes.
The following week I hand wrote the first draft of my presentation. After thinking and reflecting about my experience and the subject I chose, I started getting all kinds of creative ideas. One day, I received, a "download" - wonderful new insights about certain elements in my story, how the entire trip sort of just happened - I was able to identify a process of how everything came together. It was so excited to get this "aha" about how I had realized this and other dreams in my life. I started adding this new material to my presentation. Now, it really started taking shape. I still had plenty of time to work out the details, make edits and rehearse my presentation out loud - I had about four weeks before the due date. My speech took about 1 hour to rehearse and I would often do it in the car while diving somewhere or during my morning time alone.
Along with working on my presentation, there was some technical preparation as well. Reserving the conference line, writing a short promo piece, sending out follow up emails to participants, updating my website.. there was plenty to do. I was so happy to have my presentation ready and out of the way - it helped to keep the stress level down considerably.
Let's skip forward to the final week before my presentation and you will know why I was REALLY glad that had prepared and planned well ahead of time! About 7-8 days ahead of presentation both of my children came down with a cold - which really affected their respiration , they had fever, terrible cough and laryngitis. That meant a lot of sleepless nights and really long days for me! Eventually, I got sick as well - just 5 days before my presentation! The same week, we had 4 unexpected visitors asking to stay overnight on their way to the airport. The night before, my relatives decided to visit since they were in the area.
Luckily, I was completely ready for those unexpected surprises. Even though the presentation was on Saturday afternoon, all of the presentation materials were packed on Friday morning, the final reminders were sent and I felt ready. I spend Saturday morning rehearsing, drinking warm tea to keep my voice nice and clear (I still had a bit of a cold) and trying to stay calm.
I was still a little nervous and very excited about my tele-class but I wasn't stressed about it and that made all the difference in the world for me. I was able to enjoy the presentation, present all the material I had planned and feel pretty good about the entire experience.
I think what has helped me the most was taking little steps along the way and not feeling like I have this huge project to do. Instead, I just took it "one byte at the time", knowing I have plenty of time to work on the rest of it.
I love gathering little details along the way - way in advance of the actual event. Sometimes it's physical things like decorations, invitations, or small presents for the Holidays and birthday parties, other times it's writing down pieces of my presentation and adding new insights along the way. This works equally well for all types of events and things to do.
Being prepared is a wonderful habit to cultivate - it helps to keep the stress way down and enjoyment of the process way up. Most importantly, it allows creativity to work its magic in your life.
It is impossible to have creative insights when we are stressed. When our brain is in the survival, fight or flight mode (from a real or perceived/imagined threat), the last thing on our mind is anything creative. So, relaxing and creating plenty of time and room to prepare for our project or event ahead of time, will also create perfect conditions for creativity to flow into our life.
There will always be times when unexpected things happen and there's little we can do about it. There are also many opportunities when a little preparation and planning ahead will make the entire experience so much more fun, enjoyable and filled with creativity.
"Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success". - Henry Ford