The Art of Preparation

How does “preparation” make sense to you?

  • Memorizing notes before a meeting?
  • Packing your luggage before leaving for a trip?
  • Making tomorrow’s sandwich before you sleep?

Most people don’t know how to really master the art of pre-doing things.

LOTS of time wasted right there.

Preparation is about bringing your tasks from the future into the present. And doing them now, so you can repeatedly save more time.

There are 6 possible areas for preparation:

#1. Prepare Yourself Psychologically

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.  If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.  If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” – Sun Tzu

Preparation can win a battle for you.

You don’t go to a war to win, you win before you go to war.

Preparation can win a race, a marathon, a boxing match, but you are required to win first before the event actually takes place.

Professional athletes attain their maximum potential by psychological preparation before their actual race. They think of themselves like a cheetah, a horse, a sports car (maybe). They also think of themselves getting the gold medal.

It’s sport psychology.

Practicality: if you have an event, a meeting, a match coming up, prepare yourself in your mind. Learn to think yourself into the mindset that you crave for, in advance.

#2. Visualize Into The Foreseeable Future

You can pre-do future tasks today.

Learn to visualize yourself in the future while at the same time being realistic, ask yourself:

  1. What would you want?
  2. What would you need?
  3. What will you face?

Notice there’s a BIG difference between want and need. When you start thinking about both of them, your “future” will be a lot more realistic.

Example #1 (food)

I don’t eat street food when I’m at dorms, but my school is located in a less populated suburb I need to find a whole foods supply before school starts.

So, I need to search on online maps, ask people and do a test run.

I need to get the location first, but I also want to get the best one around. And I’ll face trouble finding the place.

Example 2 (sociality)

When school starts (currently in summer break), socializing and face-to-face catching up is going to be the new BLAST!

Rather than having the potential for being awkward and dead silent…

… I’d rather brainstorm some topics that I can dwell into.

I need to start off the new year with good socializing, and I want to appear exciting and fun. But I’ll face difficulties convincing my audience to pay attention if my story is boring.

Example 3 (clothing)

I pre-buy clothes for the next season (excluding unexpected purchases). But before I make new purchases, I think ahead of time:

  • Is it a really good time to purchase it now, is it the right season?
  • Do I still have time to wear it before this season starts again next year?
  • Does this style of apparel honestly fit me?
  • Do I even have other clothes to match it?

I need new clothes for each new season, but I also want the ones that look nice on me, but I’ll face the inability to match with other clothes and various other fashion problems.

Practicality: before you do anything, visualize the action in your mind but have it take place in the future, and ask yourself the 3 questions: what will you need, what will you want and what will you face.

Pre-doing tasks will allow you to make a rational decision under no time pressure (by not being at the exact moment).

You’ve got room to think.

#3. Simplify An Expected Fussy Condition

Fussy conditions are expectable and are bound to happen.

Why not prepare for them?

My Gym Example

Whenever I get home from the gym all sweaty and exhausted, my mind is all blurred and I have almost no rational decision-making abilities…

My mind is still fuzzy even after a shower – this expected condition can be simplified:

  1. I normally have my AC at 24, but I set it to 16 to cool down after workouts. That slow remote-switching moment from 24 to 16 is only going to take me 6 seconds, but when I’m in my burning sensation, 6 seconds literally feels like 6 years. So before I hit the gym, I get my AC down to 16 in advance.
  2. Most of the time my shower towel is either placed somewhere I can’t easily find or hung with an annoying clothes hanger. So? I make sure the towel is in the simplest spot for me to reach and use.
  3. I wear slippers at home. However, it’s normally *hidden*  in random places so again, it’s has to be in easy access.
  4. I need a big drink of water when I get home. That’s why I fill up a glass of water placed right on the table.
  5. I also need a protein snack after home. So? I fill up a little basket of almonds and walnuts on the table. Easy access.

You see, when certain conditions get frustrating (e.g. right after the gym) I do all I can to make my life easy, in advance.

Practicality: first identify conditions that you can get mentally interrupted out of mental clarity:

Then, simplify your life in advance, make it: easier, accessible, simple, convenient and mentally-unchallenging.

 #4. Mass Production – Do Things In Bulk

You can mass produce things for your futuristic needs.


  • Food: precook your meals, make simple lunchboxes that you can grab right out of the fridge. Makes lots of those lunchboxes (up to for the whole week).
  • Clothes: grab off-season clothes today, they are most likely in sales too.
  • Stationery: rather than buying stand-alone pens and whiteouts, get them in bulk. Bonus if you can take advantage of bundle deals. Saves you money too.
  • Essential items: light bulbs because they pop, toilet paper rolls because they run out, and you know more.

Practicality: learn to get things ready in high quantities all at once, rather than one by one, this not only saves you the hassle, the transportation factor, the money and most importantly – time!

Not everything should be bought in bulk though – consider the quality factor.

#5. Avoid Big Fluctuations

Achieving balance in life is difficult.

We can do that by avoiding big sudden fluctuations in life with preparation.

Let’s look at this example: you are given an assignment due next Friday and you have a week to do it.

When will you do it?

ASAP or… next Thursday night?

I’d choose ASAP. Why?

  • You’ll always be under pressure until you have finished the assignment.
  • If you do it the day before the deadline, you will be under strong levels of stress due to time pressure.
  • Your sleep will be affected.
  • Studies found you also tend to eat more junk food, because you don’t want to waste time so you reach for the simplest solutions – unhealthy “open and eat” snacks.

You see, it’s always more beneficial in the long run to avoid the extremes.

Practicality: don’t reach for the extremes with what you need to do, learn to do things as soon as you can from your to-do list to maintain a stable and non-stressful lifestyle.

It’s not just about productivity, it’s also about the quality of work, health and stress.

#6. Worst-Case Scenario: Where’s Your Plan B?

You can’t predict the future but you CAN expect worst-case scenarios.

This means you should always be prepared for the future’s worst possibilities, you need:

Backup plans.

  • Backup your computer’s important files into a separate portable hard disk.
  • Back up your files with a cloud storage too.
  • Have a presentation? Speech? Make multiple copies.
  • Going to make a claim? Get ready for arguments, draft your comebacks.
  • Have a health condition? Bring a first-aid kit with you. Severe allergic reactions? Carry an EpiPen.
  • Long trip and may get hungry? Make yourself a snack box.
  • Use a water dispenser/cooler? Get multiple water supplies.
  • Create an emergency fund.
  • Bring a band-aid where ever you go.
  • Always have a packet of tissue with you.

This is the time when being a pessimist gives you an advantage.

Practicality: think of the worst-case scenarios, and make your response in advance.

But what about unexpectable things?

Not everything is predictable but not everything is unpredictable.

“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” – Confucius

Preparation is about saving time – bringing the tasks from the future into the present and doing them right now.