The skill of anticipating can be incredibly powerful when used well. It is at the heart of strategic thinking and works in both our personal and professional lives.

Let me use the example of Christmas to demonstrate what I mean.

As we rush about frantically preparing for the holiday season we all have a sense of anticipation. Love Christmas or loathe it those of us who live in the Western world are affected by it.

Anticipation has many guises. For little children there is the wide eyed wonder as twinkly lights and brightly coloured decorations appear overnight as if by magic.

A visit to Father Christmas’s Grotto heightens the sense that something really special is about to happen.

Children’s belief in Santa is finally replaced with a strong sense of excitement for what gifts Christmas morning will bring. They are more focused on the gifts than who delivers them.

As we get older our focus changes. For many adults the anticipation is centred on seeing their loved ones gathered together. This can bring a pleasant and positive sense of anticipation.

On a far less positive note anticipation can be far less positive, anxiety about getting everything done in time, worry about the financial cost and the bills which will follow in January.

For some a sense of foreboding becomes a deeply held sense of dread around managing truculent teenagers or difficult elderly relatives, arguments fuelled by too much time in one another’s company and too much alcohol.

For those of you who work long hours and are married to your jobs, Christmas can be lonely.

The gap left by work allows enough time for you to recognise you need to do something radical about your work life balance but insufficient time to get to grips with solving the problem.

Before you can act, it is time to return to work where you will once again be too busy to do anything to make any meaningful changes.

Negative anticipation has the power to spoil the enjoyment of the moment. Worrying about what might never happen is such a waste, as by itself it so rarely changes anything.

Developing the skill of anticipation gives you the opportunity to take control of your personal and professional life in a very different way. If you would like to engage the amazing power of anticipation read on…..

The benefits of using the skill of anticipation are far reaching.

It is a skill you can learn and if employed on a regular basis it enables you to maximise the resources at your disposal and can help you manage your time more effectively.

It changes your mode of operation from one of fire- fighting to one of strategic planning.

The strategies work in every walk of life.

Think of a game of football. If the striker passes the ball to where his team mate is at the time he kicks the player will have moved on and the shot will be wasted.

All good sports players anticipate where their team mate will be and send the ball to that place. The skill is judging the speed and direction of the other player.

In business success is tied closely to your ability to anticipate the market. The one hundred business list published in the USA every year rarely has the same organisations in the top ten.

I find it fascinating that many companies don’t slip a few places but disappear all together.
I have discovered that the most successful business which stand the test of time have a number of things in common. High on the list is how they use anticipation effectively.

They buy in raw materials at the best price.

Their planning allows them to spread the work load over the year, minimizing peaks and troughs of work load.

They appoint staff with the potential to grow with the needs of the organisation.

They have put in place a training programme ahead of the needs created by a new development ensuring seamless growth.

Their leaders and managers demonstrate the skill of anticipation. They have a clear, shared vision and this is translated into a workable action plan which is delivered by well- trained people who know what is expected of them.

The plan is dynamic; there is a constant monitoring of performance based on the pursuit of growth and excellence.

Time is used to look strategically at what is needed in the medium and long term. Plans are put into place to minimize risk and maximize performance.

Team members are trained in the art of anticipating as it relates to achieving the identified goal.

People know what needs to be achieved and look at how that can be done on the most effective and efficient way possible.

There is a constant curiosity about how things could be improved. Underpinning the whole process is trust, good communication and a sense of contribution.

If you are always planning for things in the here and now it is likely that you will constantly chasing to catch up.

Let’s consider things at a personal level.

I was working with a new client who is constantly late.

She underestimated how long things would take.

She was always doing things for others when they probably had more time to spare than she did.

She found it very difficult to say no.

She found herself stressed and constantly felt overwhelmed by her life.

She is highly intelligent and caring of others she has an interesting but demanding job but had no time to organize her own life.

The result was she was constantly tired, slept badly and was constantly chasing her tail. Her story is not unique by any means.

By learning the skill of anticipation and how to say “no” graciously when it was appropriate her life became less frantic and far more fulfilling.

Learning the skill of anticipation is incredibly useful if you want to take control of your life.

Let me demonstrate what I mean going the Christmas theme.

We all have three resources available to us – time, energy and money. All of them are finite resources, although we can buy other people’s time and energy with our money.

I love Christmas but when I worked as a Head Teacher/ Principle I worked very long hours and the few weeks before Christmas were completely manic.

I needed to have all my attention on school and by the time the term ended I had little energy to spare.

I wanted to enjoy my personal Christmas so had to find a way to make things work. Anticipation was the key.
Although I no longer have the same pressures surrounding Christmas the benefits of applying the rules of anticipation are still incredibly useful.

I send lots of Christmas cards and need a quantity of wrapping paper, bows, ribbons and labels. I always buy these in the January sales. They get stored in the garage until November. The net result is a considerable saving financially.

My long list of people to buy for includes seven God children, lots of nieces and nephews, great nieces and nephews, brother in law, sister, aunt, and lots of friends.

During the year I listen carefully and make a note in the diary if I hear one of my “list” mention something which could translate into a suitable present.

I keep a look out for things during the year and if something catches my eye I will buy it and put it away for Christmas. This can save a great deal of time and lots of energy fighting the Christmas crowds.

I have been known to loose presents by putting them “somewhere safe” and not finding them till February or buying twice for the same person. I have solved these glitches by having a Christmas list on the computer which is quickly updated each year.

It also helps me to track what I have given over time. The benefit is that I spread the financial load and the last minute shopping lists are kept to a minimum.

I use the same principle I use with papers in the office when dealing with presents. I try to handle them as little as possible so will often wrap things in batches before they go up into the loft. They are put into “family” carrier bags so they are ready to go just before Christmas.

Labels for Christmas card envelopes are on the computer, updated well in advance of Christmas and l write the cards in batches whist watching the TV from November onwards. This has made it far less of a chore. I am also careful to choose card designs which require less writing by me.

I enjoy entertaining but have found I need a creative approach to make the whole thing as stress free as possible.

I cook in advance, using the freezer to ensure that on the day I was still able to enjoy the festivities.

For example I prepare the roast potatoes and parsnips in advance – parboiled them, brushed them with oil whist they were still hot. I place them on the baking ray, cover them with cling film and freeze them once they are cool.

On Christmas morning simply take off the cling film and pop them into a hot oven from frozen.

It saves the peeling, washing up and time on the morning allowing you more time to enjoy your company.

The principle of looking ahead to see what can be usefully done in advance, of prioritizing the use of time energy and money and of breaking down the jobs into manageable chunks is applicable to any context.

Think about your personal and professional life.

Where could you use the skill of anticipation more effectively?

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