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. 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 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 our enjoyment. 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 power of anticipation is amazing. 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 helps you to manage your time effectively. It changes your mode of operation from one of fire fighting to one which allows time for 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 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 don’t slip a few places but disappear all together. Anticipation allows you to buy in raw materials at the best price. To plan to spread the workload over the year, minimizing peaks and troughs of workload. Appointing staff that can grow with the needs of the organization with difficulty; anticipating training needs will avoid stagnation.

As a leader and manager, the skill of anticipation starts with a clear, shared vision and translates into a workable action plan 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 made to look strategically at what is needed in the medium and long term and plans put in place to minimize risk and maximize performance.

As a team member anticipation should be clearly tuned to achieving the goals of the team. People know what needs to be achieved and are looking 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 be constantly chasing to catch up. I was working with a new client who is constantly late. She underestimates how long things will take, often does things for others when they probably have more time to spare and finds it difficult to say no. She finds herself stressed and feels overwhelmed by her life. She is highly intelligent and caring of others, she has an interesting, but demanding, job, but no time to organize her own life. The result is she is constantly tired, sleeps badly and is constantly chases her tail. Her story is not unique by any means.

Learning the skill of anticipation is incredibly useful if you want to take control of your life. Let me demonstrate what I mean using the Christmas theme. I have three resources available to me – time, energy and money. All of them are finite resources, although I can buy other people’s time and energy with my money.

I love Christmas but when I worked as a Head Teacher 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 anticipated that I would give around 500 Christmas cards and would need a quantity of wrapping paper, bows, ribbons and labels. I always bought these in the January sales. They went in the loft until November. Net result was a considerable saving financially.

My long list of people to buy for includes seven God children, five nieces and nephews, a Great Niece and Nephew, brother, sister and partners and lots of friends. During the year I listened carefully and made 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 used the same principle I use with papers 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 were on the computer, updated well in advance of Christmas and cards for friends and family, staff, Governors and those who were associated with school written in batches whist watching the TV from November onwards. This made it far less of a chore. I was also careful to choose card designs which required less writing by me. I learned this the hard way, having bought a set of cards one year which were blank for your own message making the job so much harder.

I enjoy entertaining but found I needed a creative approach to make the whole thing as stress free as possible. I cooked in advance, using the freezer to ensure that on the day, I was still awake to enjoy the festivities. For example, I prepared the roast potatoes and parsnips in advance – parboiled them, brushed them with oil whist they were still hot. I placed them on the baking ray, covering them with cling film and freezing them once cool. On Christmas morning 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. (You can’t eat a whole cow at one sitting but it is easy to do if you tackle it mouthful by mouthful.)

Consider your life. Where could you use the skill of anticipation more effectively?

Author's Bio: 

Gina Gardiner is one of the UK's leading Leadership Coaches.
Gina supports people at individual or organizational level to develop confidence, leadership and people skills. Gina is the author of two books “Kick Start Your Career” and “How YOU Can Manage Your Staff More Effectively and is also a Neuro Linguistic Master Practitioner and a qualified coach.
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