At the midpoint of last week, I looked at my calendar for this week, and I was surprised at what appeared to be a lighter week for me. I had initially planned to take this week off of work because of my little boy's Mardi Gras school holiday, and I had blocked my calendar accordingly. However, when I made alternate childcare arrangements, I never unblocked my calendar, which led many of my coworkers to assume that I was out of the office for the week. That said, I was enthusiastic thinking about all of the things I would be able to accomplish during this downtime, including some items that had been on my to-do list for quite some time.
All was good until around noon last Friday, when I began receiving multiple emails and calls about things that had come up that needed to be addressed quickly. So much for my quiet, low-key week. Fortunately, I'm glad my schedule this week allows me to take on those unexpected priority tasks and projects without ending up in an overscheduled situation.
However, this got me thinking about the importance of being prepared. There are many things that come to mind upon hearing the term "be prepared." Whether it is the Boy Scout motto, "Be Prepared" — the song from The Lion King movie (a song I know well with a five-year-old at home) — or something else, ultimately being prepared comes down to being ready for the situations we may face, particularly those situations that we believe to be reasonably likely.
The difficulty, though, lies in the inability to predict those things that will come up that we aren't expecting: the last minute request from the audit committee or our boss, that urgent special project with a tight timeline, or the illness of a team member that causes us to have to backfill resources in the middle of audit fieldwork. In reality, there always are unanticipated things that come up. Some things may be more significant in nature with a greater impact, while some things may be more trivial. In either case, our ability to adapt to these unexpected items and make adjustments is important in determining the ultimate impact that unforeseen events will have on us. I like to think of this as being "prepared to be unprepared."
In terms of being prepared to be unprepared, it is essential to have an open mind. Simply recognizing that things beyond our control and expectations will come up from time to time is a key first step in being able to deal with those unforeseen events when they happen. Further, actively putting ourselves in situations that may push us beyond our comfort zones is also important, because it gives us experience and flexibility at dealing with new and different things. In addition, it is important not to assume that just because something happened a certain way in the past that it will continue to follow that same pattern.
Don't get me wrong, planning is important — critical in fact. It is vital to both successfully executing our audits as well as achieving our personal goals. However, an important part of the planning process is evaluating what could go wrong and what unexpected items may impact our plans — a risk assessment, if you will. Also, just as important, is being flexible and adaptable when we find that our plans may no longer be adequate based on the current environment.
With this in mind, I encourage you to prepare to be unprepared. Further, if you have any tips that could help your fellow readers in this regard, please share your ideas.