I have a pattern of being underprepared for things and then panicking. I also have a pattern of having DREAMS about being underprepared for things and then panicking. One night, in the middle of one of these, I suddenly started thinking coherently about a way to destuckify this pattern…
‘I’m going to experiment with being OVER-PREPARED MAN!’ I thought. A secret superhero identity!
This is great for me because I have ludicrous fear popcorn about being prepared in case it makes me a boring grown-up. (Even in Brownies I always failed pocket check.) But clearly I can’t be a boring grown-up while playing at being a superhero!
I imagine Over-Prepared Man as very cartoonish (if I were going to do a voice for him I’d use the Tick as a starting-point) and covered from head to toe in a wildly clashing assortment of weaponry, armour and paraphernalia – including, in homage to Alice’s White Knight, a bunch of carrots and a beehive.
All you can really see of Over-Prepared Man is his superheroic chin and cheesy KA-CHING! grin. He likes to leap in enthusiastically and shout, ‘This looks like a job for… OVER-PREPARED MAN!!!’
I usually don’t interview Over-Prepared Man so much as take on his mindset when I want to over-prepare for something. Like last weekend, I went on a coaching skills course (which I’ll probably rave about in more detail later) and it was entirely thanks to Over-Prepared Man that I was able to get ‘socially acceptable business-person’ outfits for both days laid out by Friday night AND arrive on time both days, suitably groomed and carrying a packed lunch and a stash of business cards. Let’s just say punctuality does not come naturally to me.
Punctuality is really on my mind at the moment, because I want to start volunteering with Carefree Kids, a local charity that does play therapy with troubled children. Not surprisingly, they’re sticklers for punctuality (just imagine the emotional impact of letting down a vulnerable child.) This is a real challenge for me. I have ISSUES around being on time, because I was savaged by a timetable when I was four (I’m only half joking!) This looks like a job for… OVER-PREPARED MAN!!
I’ve realised that part of the magic of being over-prepared is not having to be exactly the right amount prepared. Not having to do x at exactly y o’clock. Not having to follow anyone’s schedule. Not being timetabled! I can get around my fear of being timetabled if I let myself do each step any time within a big fuzzy timezone. Getting ready to leave any time before I need to, so then leaving is just leaving, not a daunting agglomeration of washing-dressing-eating-journeyplanning-packing-leaving that all has to be done right now or else. And then leaving the house any time before I need to, so it’s not having to leave right now or else.
This also works really well with going to bed. I’m sure I’m not the only person out there who sometimes stays up late because they’re too exhausted to contemplate brushing teeth and finding pyjamas (a problem that only gets worse the later it gets!!) Getting ready for bed any time before I need to solves that.
However, today I ran into an extra layer of trouble. I’m an introvert. This doesn’t mean I’m shy or don’t like people – far from it!! It means I recharge by being alone and expend a lot of energy when I’m with people (brilliant explanation here, which wins points both by using a hamster ball metaphor and by saying that ‘introverts give energy on social contact’. I’m giving people energy!) It also means I’m scared of the cleaner. Yes, really. She’s perfectly lovely, I’m just not so good with the COMPLETE STRANGER IN MY HOUSE thing. So today, I was late for a meetup with a friend because it involved these four steps:
1) Leave room.
2) Walk past THE COMPLETE STRANGER IN MY HOUSE AND MAYBE HAVE TO INTERACT WITH HER. Exposure!!
3) Leave house (more exposure!)
4) Commence social interaction.
ALL of these were setting off my introvert buttons. It was only after the cleaner left and I felt able to creep out of my hole that the Over-Prepared Man solution came to me. If I need to leave the house on a Tuesday, I can leave before the cleaner gets here. I can hang out in, say, the library, a cafe, or a pub until it’s time to go to where I’m going!
AND THEN I realised I could apply this to any house-leaving situation. So step 3 (leave house) and step 4 (commence social interaction) would be separated by a nice restful sit down with a book or laptop. Leaving the house would be easier because it wouldn’t be leave-house-commence-social-interaction. And leaving the library/pub/cafe would be easier than leaving the house because I’d already be in public and most of the way to my destination.
It’s all about SEPARATING THE STEPS! And pausing! (Paws!) Get ready (paws!) leave house (paws!) commence social interaction! AND it’s all about doing each step in my own time, because doing it early counts as doing it in my own time!
Wow, I can apply this to so many other things now… How would OVER-PREPARED MAN approach the transcribing work I’ve been not-doing while writing this blog post? I wonder…