“By Failing To Prepare You Are Preparing to Fail”

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Benjamin Franklin

Be Prepared.

Lately, I feel like I am a living embodiment of the Boy Scout motto.

This mantra crept into my life in the middle of September and I have been in a perpetual state of preparing (and executing) ever since.

It’s not that I haven’t been busy before.  It just seems that lately there is always something for me to do on the personal and the professional front.

By the time we hit Thanksgiving my family will have attended one wedding, 6 birthday parties, and a Christening this fall.  We will have taken our first family vacation and thrown my daughter’s own 5th birthday party.  Halloween costumes will have been bought and candy passed out.  Pies will be made. (That’s my contribution to the Thanksgiving feast.)

On the professional side, I will have researched and written an eBook, and recorded 10 tutorials.  I’m also preparing to segment my market and increase my product offerings.

And there is everything I do to keep my business and family up-and-running, things like my day job, the laundry, the grocery shopping.

When you stick a hurricane, and now a Nor’easter, into the mix, it’s enough to make you scream “Enough already!”

The only way I have found to handle all of this and not lose my mind is through good preparation.  You also need a few systems, a calendar and a very long to-do list (in fact, a couple of calendars and multiple to-do lists.)

Preparation is defined as something done to get ready for an event or undertaking.  It’s basically, all of the hard, behind-the-scenes work that has to happen before the actual event.

It’s the “grunt work”.  For example,

  • Your family won’t enjoy that vacation if you don’t make the reservations and pack your suitcase.
  • No one will come to the birthday party if you don’t send out the invitations.
  • You won’t win the trial if you don’t do the research and writing.

In your law practice, the grunt work is the work you never see Perry Mason doing.  Have you ever seen a lawyer on a legal drama bill a client, do the docketing, or hustle to get the next paying client to walk through the door?  Of course, you don’t.  It just doesn’t make for good television.

But we all know that it’s the grunt work that can make or break your case, your business, and your life.

So how do I handle some of the grunt work in my business, and avoid (mostly) the frustration and craziness that comes from not being prepared?  Well, I will tell you.

1. I break big tasks down into small chunks.  My to-do list is filled with big items, i.e. write an eBook, update website, and find clients.  Before the book can be published, I have to write it, before I write, I need to do some research, before I research I need to know what the heck the book will be about…I think you get where I’m going here.  In order to be prepared, you need to know exactly what grunt work needs to get done.

2. I schedule the grunt work on my calendar.  This means planning.  Today, writing blog posts is on the morning docket.  After I finish writing this post, I will spend a half hour, 11 – 11:30 to be exact, looking for networking events in the Boston area on Meet-up.com.  2 – 3 this afternoon, I will be making a few client phone calls to schedule some long overdue appointments.

When you put it on your calendar, you can’t forget about it.  When you set a limited time to do, you work better and faster.

3. I shut off my email and social media.  I check my email first thing in the morning then, to avoid being sucked into its vortex, I close my web browser.  If I need to look at my calendar, I glance at the paper one on my desk.  I also shut off any bells or beeps that go off when I get a new email or message.  When the task at hand is done, I check my email.  If it’s urgent, I respond.  If not, I add it to a list.

4. To avoid distractions, I make lists.  Does this ever happen to you?  You’re working on one task, and suddenly you remember that you have to do something completely unrelated.  So you stop what you’re doing and start working on the other thing.  That used to happen to me too.  At the end of the day, nothing was complete, and I was frustrated and angry with myself.  Well, now when that other thing pops into my head, I write it down on a 4X6 index card that I keep next to my computer.  After I finish what I’m currently working on, I will schedule the new items onto my calendar.

I actually use the index cards for all my lists, like grocery shopping, packing, stuff to do around the house, etc.  Every time I run out of something, I add it to the grocery card, and then I don’t forget anything at the store.

Every day, I plan.  I work.  I edit.  I execute.

There’s nothing sexy about the grunt work, but man is it satisfying to know you are prepared.

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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2 comments on ““By Failing To Prepare You Are Preparing to Fail”

  • I couldn’t agree more, Kelli. When I was a baby lawyer making court appearances, it only took one such appearance to bring out my inner anal-retentive. It happened when I walked into court, sat at counsel table, opened up my brief bag, and pulled out…the wrong file. In other words, NOT the file with the pre-marked exhibits, the pleadings, the motion I was defending, and a proposed stipulation I had promised opposing counsel I would bring. Then, with perfect timing, for the first time ever, the judge enters the courtroom right on time. And I’m number two on the docket.

    Your system sounds smart, and you’re absolutely right– there is a kind of zen calmness in knowing you are READY.

    • Richard,
      Thank you for sharing. I think you just described every lawyer’s worst nightmare. Do you use any special techniques to stay prepared?

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