Juha-Matti Santala
Community Builder. Dreamer. Adventurer.

Prepare, Perform, Ponder

Over the years, I’ve adopted a three-step feedback cycle to my life. To make it sound cool in a title of a blog post, I wanted to make it into an alliteration Prepare, Perform and Ponder. I like the sound of it.

I use it for most of the things I do in my life: from work projects to meetings to doing talks to my goals in life.


I like a good plan. Usually for me, “good” means that it’s not too big, not too detailed and definitely not too strict. Without any plan though, things often end up not happening. Planning though is only half of the appetizer. I also like to prepare.

I was recently interviewed for a podcast. I made a note listing the topics/questions that were given to me by the host as a food for thought. The couple of days leading into the recording session, I’d think about them and write down stories, notes, thoughts, ideas and references that I felt would help me have a more interesting discussion. During the recording, I had the note open on my tablet so I could always take a peek if I needed any support from my notes.

I also recently had a technical job interview and for that, I prepared by making sure I had a clean code repository created and my code editor set up in a way that I could share it with the interviewers.

Or when I prepare for a talk, I create the slides and do some social media stuff but I also prepare material in a way that I can share them with the audience and depending on the event, do a tech and mic check and get a feel of the venue.

I seem to be in a minority in work life that I actually want to prepare for my meetings with people. It’s not always easy when there’s no agenda or materials provided but I do my best to gather what’s up and make some notes, read through materials and prepare myself so I can make the best out of the meeting.


With good preparation, I feel more confident when it comes time to perform the thing itself. And not only confident in the content but confident that I can focus on the topic and people at hand.

We all do things all the time so I don’t really have much unique insights into this part.

It’s the other two parts that make this interesting.


I just love the word ponder. But if I wasn’t aiming for alliteration, I would use terms like reflect or run a retrospective.

I write notes as soon as possible after a thing that I’ve done because I’ve learned we forget most of the stuff quite fast. The initial notes are usually just flow of thoughts put into bullet points. If there’s something that I want to store more permanently, I then process them into other notes that are easier to find and access when I need to find them later.

After a job interview (where I usually make notes about facts and details during the interview), I take out my notebook and write down what thoughts were going through my head during the interview. Was there something I was really excited or impressed about? Something that I feel the need to clarify in a following interview if I’m invited to continue? How do I feel I performed in the interview? Is there something I could have done better?

For example, in a job interview recently I noticed how thinking, coding and communicating at the same time consumed so much of my focus and energy that I didn’t take the best approaches for my technical solutions. I then made notes of that in my interview notes but also added those insights into my general interview prep note so I’ll remember them the next time I prepare for a technical interview.

After a presentation or a talk, I do the same. I write down the best parts that I felt went well and resonated the best with the audience. I jot down what I feel could be improved or cut from the presentation for future. I make notes from great ideas or extra references I learned during the Q&A or in discussions after the talk.

When I used to run a startup accelerator back in the day, I learned a super valuable lesson. Our teams were recommended to video their pitches. I had heard that advice earlier but what followed really changed my perspective. The recommendation was followed with “not so you can find your mistakes but so that you can remember the parts that went super well”. It completely changed what I focus on when I make my immediate notes.

The bigger the project, more pondering there is. For something smaller like an interview or a talk, the notes might be just a couple of pages without more consideration. For a bigger project like organizing a larger event or doing a software project, a more thorough retrospective is needed. Often for those, I have done reflections through out and made notes so when I do the final retro, I can go through those notes, make them into a more detailed and well crafted notes so I can use them next time in the preparation phase.

I’ve been lucky to work in many companies and projects that have done regular retrospectives within the team but I do them also on my own for projects that I do alone.

Retrospectives and ponderings are a crucial part for me to improve and figure out the best ways to work. Otherwise it’s too easy to keep repeating the same mistakes all the time.

My annual Year in Review posts are an outcome of these retrospectives as well. When I work on them, I do a lot of reflecting on the year: what I liked, what worked and on the other hand, what I’d like to see or do less in my life. Not all of those ponderings end up in the final blog post but they are an important part of the process.

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