The Lost Art of Preparation

We’re live in an age that values, and almost demands, multitasking.

I hate it.

One of the reasons I dislike it so strongly is that I see its impact on preparation, i.e., the time, thought, and energy devoted to the single task at hand. Trying to multitask inherently brings distraction. Distraction fosters delays. Delays usher in hurry.  Hurry encourages less preparation, and with less preparation generally comes less desirable results.

Years ago, there was a popular sign hanging behind the counter at various establishments where craftsmanship was the stock and trade. It read, “Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick two.”

It communicated an unspoken message to the customer and set a standard for performance for the shop owner: quality work takes time, and trying to make it happen quickly benefits no one in the long run.

I’d like to add to that thought and provide you three things to consider as we try to reclaim and preserve The Lost Art of Preparation:

Think It Through. We all want the job. We all want approval. We all want to be the hero. But can you really deliver what you say you can? Do you have the skill set and the determination to follow through successfully? Have you accurately and thoroughly surveyed the entire scope of the work? We often underestimate the time and resources it will take to honor a commitment. Know before you commit. If you don’t know, you may want to ask for time to investigate or think about it. Most of the time, that will earn the respect of the person you’re dealing with. It will certainly be better than committing to something you can’t finish or can’t do well.

Do Less. In adopting a philosophy of preparation toward the things that are important to you might mean committing to do fewer things. That’s okay. You’re going to be the person that people can count on. Once you’ve thought it through and given your word that you’ll be prepared, that’s it. You can’t do this with a dozen things at once. You can certainly do it with one thing, perhaps two or three. Keep your commitment to preparation focused on a few prioritized objectives. Let everything else wait.

Preparation Communicates Importance. We prepare for things that are important to us, and the amount of preparation is often commensurate with the importance of something. A college degree often takes four years to acquire. We take that time because we think it will be an important factor in how our lives play out. We even start, as parents and students, preparing for college years before it’s time to apply, register, and attend class.

We prepare, plan, and dress up for events that are important to us: weddings, funerals, formal social functions like parties and proms, and significant religious ceremonies. Casual is overrated. It communicates no effort and no consideration for the event or people you’re there to honor. That’s fine for a bonfire at the beach. It’s inconsiderate for a memorial service.

So honor your work. Honor your friends and family. Honor yourself. Prepare.

  • BGT


9 thoughts on “The Lost Art of Preparation

  1. This is the most refreshing website on the internet. I check it every day, and it really adds an extra bit of motivation to my life. I used to read the ivy style website, but yours has become more substantive than ivy style. Your newest book is fantastic as well. Please keep up the great work, it is much appreciated.

  2. This is one where I still have much to learn. I tend to multi-task and get distracted easily. I’m aware and working on it. I have a good teacher through my husband who is a true craftsman in my humble opinion. He takes his time and is quite methodical in everything he does.. from his work to making an omlette. It’s done once, it’s done right. I so admire that quality.

  3. Excellent observation! I doubt anyone would want to be treated by a multi-tasking dentist.
    Calls to mind the Russian proverb to measure seven times and cut once.
    (Some things are so important that you only get one shot.)

  4. Byron, great post. I wonder if all the electronic gadgets we have today like smart phones, I Pads, etc. are marketed around the idea of allowing people to multitask. I find that when I try to do several things at once nothing really gets done thoroughly. It might be better just to make a list, complete one thing at a time, cross it off and move on.
    Loved your old money book, and Have learned a lot from your blog. Many of the things you mentioned in your old money book were familiar since my wife came from an old money family with many if not all the values you speak about.
    Keep up the good work

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