Tips for Becoming More Proactive
Learning how to be proactive is about taking initiative in your life. Many people wait to start troubleshooting when a problem smacks them in the face.
Then they feel rushed to get things done, while probably feeling a little embarrassed or ashamed that they’ve taken so long to get this something accomplished. That’s called procrastination, which is the opposite of being proactive.
Being proactive is getting problems solved before they become problems. It’s having a plan and then executing that plan, making something happen, instead of reacting to what happens in your life. Learning how to life live proactively involves mastering one or two techniques for problem-solving, but it usually involves having an attitude adjustment, as much as it is about any method or technique. It’s learning to look ahead, instead of living in the past and the present.
With that in mind, let’s look at ways you can become a more proactive student, worker, business owner, or just all-around person.
Define Your Challenges – Take Those Challenges On
No matter what challenges you face, you need to take these challenges on with all your energy. Whether it’s a job situation, a family concern, or a personal challenge, you need to define what the problem is – what the obstacle is – and then devise ways to meet the challenge and get around that obstacle.
This is planning I’m talking about. You learned to do this in math class. Figure out what the problem is. Decide which tool you should use to solve the problem. Then go about doing the work to arrive at the end of the problem.
Life is about facing challenges. Some of these are minor challenges and you solve them almost absent-mindedly. Others are major challenges and you have to work hard, put in a lot of time, and give it the extra effort to succeed. Whatever the case, understand what the challenge is in front of you, assess what needs to be done, then go out and do it.
Work on Weaknesses, Not on Strengths
You’ve probably seen those body builders who have the huge upper bodies and the tiny legs. That’s the way most of us tend to be: we prefer to work on our strengths and not our weaknesses. That’s because being good at something is fun. It makes us feel good about ourselves. Most of the time, it comes easy, or at least a heckuva lot easier than doing something that doesn’t come easy to us.
We are naturally good at some things, and naturally bad (or not-so good) at others. As time goes by, we tend to focus on those things we enjoy and we become better at them. Those aspects of our lives that we find difficult or less enjoyable, we tend to devalue this activity, to push it aside and perhaps stop doing it altogether. Eventually, this becomes something we are “weak” at. This is following the path of least resistance.
Instead, follow the path of most resistance, at least when it comes to self-improvement. The best athletes do this. Every summer as a young man, Michael Jordan always worked on the area of his basketball game he considered the least developed. Eventually, he became great at virtually every aspect of basketball. Sure, he had tons of talent, but he found ways to improve every part of his game, by working on his weaknesses – not just his strengths.
Look Ahead, Not Behind
Now that you’re finding ways to improve yourself, start to focus on the future. So many of us, when we try to improve ourselves, end up focusing on the past too much. This means we end up focusing on past failures and shortcomings. I’m not saying you chuck all that stuff and completely forget about what came before. Obviously, you have to analyze to improve. But that’s what you need to do, to find ways to improve, not beat yourself up about what needs improvement.
Instead, find ways to make yourself a better person, a better employee, a better business person, a better boyfriend or girlfriend, or a better family member. Then start looking for ways to put those new skills to work. Focus more on your future than your best. Look where you’re going, not where you’ve been.
Believe in Yourself – Others Will Believe, Too
When you have a goal in mind, believe you’re going to achieve it. Have a plan and believe in that plan. If you are racked by self-doubt and lack of confidence, you are already working against yourself. Be an optimist.
This doesn’t mean to be a blind optimist. The idea is you get a plan – a good plan – and you start working towards that plan proactively. If you have analyzed what needs to happen and made clear-headed decisions about how you can accomplish your goals, don’t let doubters convince you that you’re wrong.
Be confident and project that confidence to others. Eventually, the people around you will start to believe you’re going to achieve your goals. Eventually, many of those same doubters will find themselves trying to help you achieve your goals. Confidence is contagious. People want to achieve. People want to be on the winning side. So have confidence you’re going to succeed.
Efficiency is Proactive
Be more efficient in everything you do. Find ways to eliminate, consolidate, shorten, quicken, and budget. That means budgeting your time, budgeting your money, and otherwise making the most of the resources at your disposal.
Evaluate your procedures as you proceed. Analyze the processes you go through every day as they happen. Continually ask yourself whether these processes are the best they can be. Don’t get comfortable with the same routine.
If you want to be proactive, never get comfortable with what has been. Find something to make it better.
This is one piece of advice about being proactive that goes without saying, but should be mentioned first, last, and in-between. Since I don’t want to annoy you with repeated mantras, I’ll stick this right in the middle. If you are proactive, by definition, you are not procrastinating. If you tend to procrastinate, then you cannot be proactive.
When there is something that needs to be done, do it. People procrastinate, because they want to avoid unpleasant things. They want to take the path of least resistance. Eventually, though, it all gets backed up and that procrastination is going to make you especially agitated and unhappy. All the while leading up to that moment of crisis, it’s going to be in the back of your mind, gnawing at your thoughts. So don’t procrastinate. Get whatever unpleasant task off your desk, out of the way, and off your mind.
Stay Ahead on Daily Tasks
While we’re on the subject, don’t put off those routine daily tasks that you are supposed to do every single day, or on certain days of the week. These might seem like minor tasks that you can handle anytime. They might seem like they’ll only take a minute. That’s probably the case, if you aren’t in a hurry when you do them. But if you wait until some other list of tasks plops on your desk, you’ll end up feeling rushed trying to handle these new tasks, while taking care of those you could have done earlier.
When you have extra time, don’t waste it. Instead, stay ahead on less urgent day to day tasks. So when you suddenly get hit with a flood of new work or issues, you don’t have to put these off. They’re already done.
Prioritize – Being Proactive with Your Priorities
Make a priority list, where you set down in black-and-white letters which parts of your day are the highest priority to you. Then stick to the list of priorities in the order they come. Make clear-headed decisions about your priorities in life and you can’t help but be proactive. Don’t skip down the list, or else you are doing what you want to do, not what you need to do.
Learning how to prioritize your day lets you create order in your life. Most of us run around in a big hectic, chaotic rush all day long. But when you prioritize, you know that you’re doing what’s most important to you, when it should be done. You aren’t handling what’s fifth most important, hoping to get back to your #1 priority later. Add order to your life with a checklist or list of priorities. There are computer programs that help you do this, like iGoogle and one of the Google Gadgets we discussed yesterday.
Automate – Be Proactive
Whenever possible, automate the routine tasks in your life. Many websites and web tools let you automate your life through your computer. You can automate bills paying, if you want to. Never get behind on a credit card bill or a house payment. Only do this if you don’t worry about balancing the bank account at the end of the month.
Automation lets you delegate to the machines around you some of the tasks you would otherwise do yourself. This saves time, keeps you ahead of the wolf, and makes you an all-around more proactive person.