How to Be Proactive

How to Be Proactive

The word “proactive” doesn’t have a specific meaning. The dictionary definition of the word doesn’t quite do it justice — “acting in advance to deal with an expected difficulty”. Yes, being “proactive” means acting in advance, but it doesn’t always have to be in anticipation of a difficulty.

The word “proactive” is a trendy word. It seems like the word started to pop up big time in the late 80s and early 90s, and in the world of business and new-age consumerist philosophy it is hanging on strong. Linguists and students of English hate words like proactive — it is something of a made-up word, combining the prefix “pro-” (meaning positive) and the word “active. Being “proactive” literally means acting positively.

Here’s ten steps to increasing your “pro-activity”.

1. Self-reflection

Start your new proactive life by reflecting on yourself to find areas where you need help.

What kinds of tasks do you do every day? Make a list of things you need to get done on a daily basis at work, school, or in relationships.

When do things seem to come all at once? Do you have a tough time at the beginning of the month when bills are due and paychecks are short? Or maybe you have more trouble at month’s end after a month of spending and working. Figure out when is your “toughest time”.

2. Self-examination

Ask yourself how you can perform your daily and weekly tasks more efficiently.

-Start by creating a plan or routine to accomplish every task you are charged with, in detail.

-Gather all the information you need to perform each of your tasks. This means keeping an address book, email address list, names and other details of people who will be a part of your task. Creating this kind of “one stop list” of names, numbers, and other details for your tasks, you will be making yourself a proactive worksheet for everything you do.

-Examine your lists of tasks for steps or entire tasks that can be eliminated or at least streamlined to make yourself more positively active.

3. Problem Prevention

The truth is, most “problems” that arise (and most that can be solved by being more proactive) can be prevented well before they arise.

Being proactive means being able to tackle your tasks and shortcomings in those tasks before they become a thorn in your side. Looking at the tasks ahead of you for the week or for the month means creating precautionary steps to avoid trouble — this is what it means to be “proactive”. A proactive person always has fallback plans.

4. Be Positive

Being positive doesn’t mean wearing rose-colored glasses. Being positive just means creating a mindset of solving problems rather than replaying them over and over in your head.

-Define a problem or troublesome task. What is it about that task that is difficult for you?

-Figure out what needs to happen in your life to overcome this difficulty. Make your definition and your steps to overcome as specific as possible.

-Once you’ve made your lists, take positive action and be done with it.

5. Stay on top of Day-to-Day Work

Most of our day-to-day tasks are not as important as the “big stuff” on our list. This means feeding the dog, washing a load of laundry, tidying the kitchen, etc. If you can get on top of those tasks by squeezing them in earlier or getting them done ahead of time, they will be out of the way when a bigger or more time consuming problem comes up.

Just like in the medical field, preventative maintenance on your daily task list (checking the oil and fluids in your car, saving money, etc) can keep you from having bigger problems down the line. A small amount of effort a head of time saves you time and stress later on. Do your day-to-day work as soon as you think about it instead of mentally penciling it in for later in your day.

6. Prioritize Tasks

We all know which of our jobs or duties takes priority, we just aren’t always willing to admit it. If you write out a list of daily “to do” items, you can take it one step further and make a list of “I will do” and “I will not do” items. As each item occurs, cross it off your list. This time honored tactic really does keep your day orderly.

7. Elimination

It is time to get rid of the stuff you don’t really need to do. To be proactive, you can altogether eliminate anything in your daily to do list that isn’t totally necessary.

There are things you do every day that simply don’t need to be done, or that you can ask someone else to do for you. If a given task isn’t necessary to your survival at home or on the job, that task can be a real energy dump. You have to be very honest with yourself in order to eliminate your bad habits, but that’s what this step of becoming proactive is all about.

8. Self-evaluation

Now that you’ve really amped up your proactive lifestyle, you can start to evaluate how the changes you’ve made have helped you.

Make notes for yourself on your time sheets or schedules on how you can improve — then keep these lists around for your next round of task list making. Evaluating means getting rid of any task that doesn’t work or method that isn’t helping and replacing it with a new idea. Tweaking your schedule to accommodate a more proactive lifestyle takes time, but that is why you must always self-evaluate.

9. Anticipate

We all have an ebb and flow to our schedule. Over time, as you’re becoming more proactive, you’ll notice that your most stressful times have a rhythm to them. If you work in retail or customer service, it is likely that your stress is seasonal. This means there’s extra work (and potentially extra reward) at certain times of the year. You can reorganize your life at these times to make yourself more proactive.

Looking ahead at your stressful times in the future is the best way of anticipating your proactive needs. Any amount of stability you can provide your future self is worth the small effort of anticipating future trouble.

10. Work Ahead

Most of our careers require training and additional effort in order for us to advance. If you can “work ahead” and get a new certification or take a college course to increase your earning potential, do it. Watch for changes at home or at work and get ahead of the game by changing yourself to match them. A proactive person learns from the past but tries to prepare for the future as well.

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