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Are You Planning to Fail?

Few people do, at least consciously. Why would anyone jump out of bed in the morning, pump their fists and proclaim, "Today, I'm really going to blow it. Complete wipeout -- a major league face-plant."

But if you don't build in time to prepare for important meetings or calls, you are living proof of the truth of the statement: "Failure to plan is planning to fail."

A recent experience underscored this. I was assigned to write an article on a topic I was relatively unfamiliar with: private equity investments in oilfield service companies. Fortunately, the client, and my assignment editor, each sent me some background material on the topic. I spent a couple of hours reading it and preparing a series of specific questions in advance of an hour-long conference call with four subject-matter experts (SMEs).

The preparation paid off. Several times during the call, one of the SMEs said, "Hmmm, that's a good question." That felt really good. My preparation led to a very robust two-way conversation on the topic, which greatly helped the writing process.

Sure, we're all over-scheduled. Our bosses want us to do more with less, and do it faster. If you are unable to push back on new projects, the natural temptation is to eliminate planning time before an important meeting or call: "No need to prepare, I got this."

But when you fail to plan, you virtually guarantee you will under-perform on the call, meeting or interview with a reporter. That suggests it's only a matter of time before you commit a huge face-plant. Murphy's Law says this will happen at the worst possible time -- say, right before your performance review.

So take the time to plan. Discuss your workload with your manager or director. Collaboratively figure out which projects really demand your attention, and which can be deferred or handed off. If you have important projects, you need to give them the time they deserve.

Read the second and third articles in the series "How Are Your College Interns Performing?" & "Print is Not Dead"

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