small__2255781557This is a guest post by Jaimy Ford, business writer and editor.

I have a recurring dream that I am back in high school, and I’ve completely forgotten where to go for my next class. In some cases, I wander the halls aimlessly until I wake up. In others, I just skip the class altogether and go to my next one. In one dream, it’s only the first day of school. In another, I realize that I have been skipping this class for months now and that I am destined to fail it.

I always wake up with an intense uneasiness. The dreams feel real, and I carry that feeling of being lost and unprepared with me for a good part of the day.

I’m not really into dream analysis, but these nightmares definitely have a direct correlation with my work. When I am feeling a little overwhelmed or facing a major deadline, I have them. And they serve as a reminder of two critical rules in life and the workplace:

  • You can never be too prepared.
  • Always plan for the worst case.

What if the me in my dream had written down directions to my class, just in case? Or drawn myself a little map? That extra precaution could have saved the dream-world me a lot of anxiety and maybe even a big, fat F at the end of the semester.

To keep the real me in check, I always ask myself this question when faced with any business decision or project: “What’s the worst that can happen?”

I actually create a list of all the things that could go wrong. Then I prepare for that worst-case scenario. It might sound a little pessimistic, but the process forces me to think of solutions to problems and alternatives to my plans before I even start. And somehow having imagined the worst makes the inevitable pitfalls less daunting.

What’s one tactic you use to ensure that you don’t lose your way during a project or assignment?

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