Updated: Mar 28
Easy Steps to Find Calmness and Success Every Day
According to our Introvert Talent Quiz which nearly 2,500 people have taken, one specific personality trait stands out as more common than any other amongst introverts...
Planning & Preparation
Believe It or Not
For many of you, this should come as no surprise. Planning and preparation not only help us prepare for the more anxiety-riddled obstacles we may face, but introverts are generally very good at it.
However, there may also be many of us who don't recognize this strength or even hide it. For years I hid this talent. Others didn't seem to showcase my penchant for such organization and even chided me over my instinctual need to schedule. Only after I reached the third Phase of Introversion - Enlightenment, did I realize how powerful this talent was and that I needed to embrace this skill rather than hide it. Hence, it is important for us to acknowledge this strength and then use it and grow it to bring us both joy and happiness.
What Does Planning & Preparation Entail?
Planning and preparation are often solo endeavors with 2 main vehicles:
Calendar: If you don't have a reliable calendar (online or paper if you must), this is a great place to start. The calendar is one of your greatest friends. Put down the obvious entries - work or social obligations or meetings. That goes without saying. But the trick is to do more by blocking out time on your calendar for these 4 R's:
Ready: be ready. Consider what the meeting or social is about. What questions might you have? What are you curious about? Who will be there? For work meetings, review the agenda and pre-read material. Jot down notes, issues, or questions you wish to bring up. This helps so you don't have to think on your feet but have unique perspectives ready to go. Also, review attendee lists for all events. Lean on your List of Four to be prepared for the event and the inevitable chitchat that kicks off most events. This is not just for work environments. Spend a few minutes before a social event or dinner and consider topics you would like to share or ask about when you get together. Who would you like to talk with first? Who might you want to avoid?
Reenergize: if you anticipate an energy-draining meeting or social, ensure you have time in advance to relax and energize. Listen to some music, take a nap, read a book, doodle, or meditate. We want to enter these events with high energy so we can set the right tone by getting off on the right foot. Our energy will naturally drain during most events, so starting with a lot of fuel in the tank is critical.
Refresh: you don't want to burn your valuable energy by worrying about being late. Aim to get to the event early so you remain refreshed. Then get the lay of the land. Being familiar with your surroundings helps put us at ease.
Recuperate: after events, reward yourself with some "me" time. Take a walk, do your favorite hobby (art, music, reading, exercise) and reflect first on what went well and briefly on what you might wish to improve on for next time. This helps to put a bow on the event so you can move on.
If we fail to block out this extra time on our calendar, we are left to run to the meeting or social unprepared and anxious before the event even begins. And then we often jump straight from one event to the next. No doubt our tank is emptying fast with this approach. Know that you need this extra time, that you benefit from it personally, and that your work and relationships benefit from it as well.
To-Do List: Find a system that works for you to track your tasks for each day. You can use sticky notes or notebooks if you wish, or you may choose one of the many phone apps. Some are fairly complex with project categories for those uber-organized. I prefer the simple version. I use the free version of OmniFocus and just input my tasks for each day and note those recurring ones so they populate automatically. Apps make it simple to check them off or "arrow them over" to the next day if you wish. You may want to just have big-ticket items on your list (projects or deliverables for the day) but I tend to put routine items as well so I can see the big picture.
The benefits of such a task list are plenty:
Declutter: I don't have to clutter up my brain trying to remember all my obligations of the day.
Capture: I capture fleeting ideas that I have during the day. I might have an epiphany or hear a great idea or a solution to a problem. Rather than risk losing it, I just put it on my task list and then may move it over to another day or week later so I can do that task justice when I can allocate more time.
Rebalance: Having all your tasks in front of you for the day allows you to assess feasibility. Perhaps there's just too much on your platter today. Better yet, look forward to the next several days to assess the workload. Don't just consider the number of tasks but the energy required. Some are exciting activities you look forward to and others you may know in advance are going to be quite draining. Evaluate your calendar and challenge yourself to remove items you no longer find necessary and push others back that are just not that urgent. If you do this well, you will maintain a healthier energy level and avoid a lot of grief.
Deliver: Most people, especially introverts, need to deliver on obligations. None of us like when someone fails to do something they committed to and, worse yet, doesn't even let us know they may be running late. If we put all our commitments onto our task list, we are much more likely to deliver on those or at least communicate with others if we feel timely delivery is unlikely. Task lists also help us to break down big tasks into small pieces that are more doable and less overwhelming.
While not every introvert who took our Quiz ranked Planning & Preparation high, this can be a soothing talent for all introverts. Just the calmness of knowing I have my shit together, I don't have to remember everything in my head, and that I'm prepared for the meetings and social networking that we often find most troubling makes the organizational effort well worthwhile.
How Do I Grow This Strength?
Whether you have been leaning on this strength for years or are just now recognizing it, let's talk about how to grow our Planning & Preparation skills:
If you don't maintain a calendar and to-do list, start now.
Start with your most stressful events (meetings, networking, socials...) and apply your preparation skills. If you are leading a meeting, prepare the agenda and pre-read and then consider the key points you want to get across and what might be the most contentious issues to prepare to debate. If you are a meeting participant, ask for an agenda and pre-read and prepare your notes, questions, and issues so it's easier to participate in the moment.
Apply these skills at home regarding projects around the house or vacations coming up. Not only will it help you accomplish more, but it will alleviate some apprehensions and actually make for a more pleasant activity.
Socially, I prefer to host dinners or parties rather than go to others. It quenches my desire to plan, I get to intentionally select the attendees and prepare my List of Four for the group. This helps me prepare an energetic agenda (rather than just standing around and chatting), plan games or other activities to break the group into smaller sets with an underlying purpose beyond chitchat, and it allows me to take an energy break to setup, replenish food and drink, or clean up a bit when I just need a break.
Block out time in your day to prepare and plan. Yes, this applies in advance of specific meetings or socials, but also to the planning process itself. Schedule time each day to review your calendar and to-do list. What's on the agenda for today and tomorrow? Anything you want to prioritize, cancel, or slide over to another day? Do you feel comfortable with the workload? How will you maintain your energy level during the day's activities and ensure you don't finish the day curled up in a ball?
The Keys to Your Strength
Planning & Preparation are often our greatest strengths. Lean on them:
Find and use a calendar system and to-do list that works for you.
Prepare for meetings in advance.
Develop your List of Four for your social and networking events.
Keep practicing these skills and embedding them in your day.
Be careful not to overdo it. Planning and preparation are essential but we shouldn't wrap ourselves up in this and forget to do the actions or events themselves.
For March, we will talk about related aspects that support our journey. We will then kick off April by diving into one of the least recognized but very powerful introvert strengths.
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