Planning is your secret weapon

Planning is probably the least sexy, and one of the most important tools in your toolkit.

Planning is, at its core, the act of taking time to think about something, considering potential outcomes, and making as many early decisions as possible.

You can do it by yourself, in a group, writing on paper, or committing details to memory. The how is less important.

Everyone has done it before. When you go to the supermarket, you probably write a shopping list. This is planning in action: you're doing the thinking upfront about what you will eat later, considering the possibilities, and then deciding what you will buy. Before you get to the supermarket.

By moving as many decisions as you can into your planning time, you’re creating the opportunity for yourself to think carefully, to research, to weigh options, and to decide on the strategy and outcome you believe is best. Without this exercise, you will need to make the same decisions later, but possibly under pressure, possibly with much less information at hand, and probably on someone else's terms.

Planning is a practice that, if you take time and create space for it, will be one of the most impactful things you can do for your career.

Planning well allows you to come prepared to meetings, conversations, and decisions. It allows you to operate more smoothly throughout your day, and even give the appearance to others of effortless and calm excellence. Why? Because you’re shifting the cognitive load to a different moment in time. A moment that you’re in control, instead of a moment when you’re required to react.

Planning doesn’t need to be a big event. Taking 5 minutes to think about what’s currently on your plate, and writing a little prioritised list for yourself is planning. Thinking for 1-2 minutes about the desired outcome for a meeting, before sending the invite, is planning. These are small, but wildly impactful things to do.

Skip planning at your own peril. You’ll be operating at all times with an increased cognitive load, forcing yourself to improvise constantly. You risk forgetting things, missing deadlines, disappointing peers, and generally creating a low-performing existence for yourself.