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How to be more proactive at work and in life – Clockify Blog
Learn what it means to be proactive at work and in life, what is a proactive mindset and how to become less reactive.
How to be more proactive at work and in life
Last updated on: March 31, 2022
Do you know that one person who seems to have their life completely together? They are successful at work, they have a great personal life, they somehow manage to work out regularly, and they always seem to be prepared for everything.
You may think that they have sold their soul on the black market.
While that might be true, it’s most likely that they mastered the art of being proactive.
In this article, we’ll go over what it means to be proactive at work and in life, what is a proactive mindset, and how to become less reactive – with a lot of examples included.
Table of Contents
What being proactive means?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, being proactive means “acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes”.
Being proactive means thinking about the future and focusing on the things you can control instead of all those you cannot. It also means taking responsibility.
The concept of proactivity was popularized by Stephen Covey in his book . Being proactive is the very first habit.
As opposed to being proactive, being reactive means just waiting for things to happen to you; circumstances dictate your actions instead of your actions dictating the circumstances.
There is a stimulus and there is a response. In between, there is your freedom to choose what your reaction will be. Will it be proactive or reactive?
If you’re not sure, here are some additional questions to ask yourself that can help you figure it out:
Do you have any kind of long-term plan?
Do you take an active or passive role at work and in life?
Do you make a decision only when you absolutely have to?
Do you think about the future and anticipate possible outcomes or do you have a more live-in-the-moment approach?
Do you feel like life is just happening to you and you’re not playing an active role in it?
What is a proactive mindset and how to achieve it?
A proactive mindset starts with realizing that you’re not a product of your circumstances, but your decisions.
One of the most important characteristics of a proactive mindset is focusing on things that are in your control – you can’t control the weather, but you choose if you’ll bring an umbrella and put on waterproof footwear – and, ultimately, will you come home dry or with wet socks. Sometimes things that happen to us aren’t our fault, but they are always our responsibility, and proactive people realize that.
The proactive mindset is often intertwined with the growth mindset. If you have a growth mindset, you don’t give up when you face a challenge, you persist; you don’t see failures as a bad thing, but the opportunity to grow; you are inspired by the success of others instead of envious; your goal is to continuously grow and improve yourself.
Are you open to change?
Proactive people are. They are also not afraid to make positive changes themselves, by taking action instead of waiting for everything they want to magically appear in front of them.
When a reactive person makes a mistake, they will make excuses or blame everyone but themselves: circumstances, people around them, Mercury retrograde. When a proactive person makes a mistake, they acknowledge it, take accountability for it, correct it and learn from it.
They know they are responsible for themselves and their life; they control their response to unpleasant or stressful situations, instead of letting their emotional reactions get the best of them.
How to be more proactive in life
Being proactive in life means taking care of yourself and things around you, as well as developing good habits because you realize your life is a product of things you do every day.
For example, proactive people will make sure they are eating healthy and having some kind of physical activity in their daily routine; they will also go to regular health checkups. Reactive people will go to the doctor only when they can’t tolerate the pain anymore – till that point, they’ll just brush it off. (This can have fatal consequences, please don’t do that.)
In relationships with other people, proactive people don’t throw problems under the rug. They don’t take their frustrations out on other people. They regularly communicate about their feelings and needs and when there is a problem, they actively work on solving it.
Even their car is less likely to break down because they’re doing regular vehicle maintenance.
How to be more proactive at work
“Being proactive in the office starts with awareness,” says Hillary Flinn, a Life Organization Coach. ”Knowing what’s coming up, who it will impact, and what could potentially go wrong. Organization is the key to handling a large workload, so take the time on a daily or weekly basis to get a good sense of your upcoming tasks and projects.
From this place of awareness, you’re in a better spot to take proactive steps to accomplish your tasks and mitigate issues. Here are some practical examples:
Reaching out to a colleague a few days ahead of a cross-functional deadline to check in on their progress and offer support.
Blocking time on your manager’s calendar well in advance to review an important project. (As a proactive best practice, try to book meetings with at least 24 hours’ notice!)
Example of a proactive person
Proactive people are able to be prepared for almost any situation. Here are a few of the tools and strategies that give an example of a proactive person.
Example of a Proactive Person
by Harold Taylor | Jul 31, 2019 | General Time Management | 0 comments
Proactive people are always looking ahead at future activities, projects and events and anticipating needs, problems and possible outcomes.
For example, if they are attending a conference in a different city, they go beyond actually booking air travel, arranging ground transportation and booking a hotel room. They mentally walk through the three-day event, deciding in advance what they will wear at the various functions, which presentations they will attend, and who they will seek out in order to maximize their networking opportunities. In the process, they might decide that they will need business cards, writing materials, an empty carry-on bag to house the information that they will be collecting at the exhibits and casual clothes for the Saturday night barbecue.
It’s no accident that a few people always seem to have a spare pen to loan, a safety pin to offer, a Band-Aid or pain killer when someone’s in distress and shampoo when there’s none in the hotel room. These are the people you turn to when you need a hairdryer or a list of meeting rooms or change for the hotel vending machine. They are also the people who are frequently selected as project managers, management trainees, and group leaders. They are organized, punctual, and productive – and respected by their managers and peers alike.
What is their secret? How are they able to be prepared for almost any situation? Here are a few of the tools, strategies, and mindset that form an example of a proactive person.
1. Set goals
Proactive people hold planning sessions with themselves as well as with others and set specific goals for the future. They not only put them in writing, along with deadline dates, they schedule time in their planners to actually work on them. By doing this, they are helping to create their own future as opposed to reacting to unplanned events.
2. Block off time for important tasks and activities
Proactive people use planning calendars as they are supposed to use them – to reserve time in the future for priority tasks and activities. By being able to visualize the future, they are able to anticipate possible problems and act before they can occur. Just looking at an event such as a scheduled meeting in writing, sets your mind thinking about things you will need for that meeting. Proactive people normally schedule their priority activities about a week ahead, leaving unscheduled time each day for those important and urgent tasks and activities that inevitably pop up throughout the week. They may have to do some juggling in order to fit them all in; but they never allow a priority task or activity be replaced without first rescheduling it to another time slot. And they never replace a scheduled activity with a less important one. They realize that the good is the enemy of the best.
3. Use checklists
Proactive people make up checklists for all repetitive events or activities, such as meetings, travel, conferences, sales calls, workshops and interviews. These checklists are updated if necessary after each event. If anything was missed, it is added to the list so that it won’t be forgotten the next time. Checklists save time and money and prevent errors.
4. Review results
Proactive people don’t just follow through with planned tasks and events, they follow up as well, and make sure the value received was worth the time and effort expended. This ensures that they are indeed completing the 20% of the tasks that yield 80% of the results. They always question whether they are making the best possible use of their time.
5. Plan long-range
Proactive people recognize that it’s never too early to plan, and that planning too late causes crises and time problems. If the Titanic had started turning sooner, it never would have hit the iceberg. Small adjustments made earlier avoid large adjustments having to be made at the last minute.
6. Set deadlines
Proactive people set deadlines for every planned activity. They are aware of Parkinson’s Law, which indicates activities will consume as much time as you have available for them. Setting deadlines both increases efficiency and prevents procrastination. Proactive people realize that deadlines don’t cause stress; only unrealistic deadlines cause stress. So they always allow more time than they think the task or activity will actually take. This allows for those unpredictable interruptions.
7. Maintain the right attitude
Although there are certain tools and techniques that proactive people use, a big part of it is their attitude or state of mind. In fact, it could be called a way of life. Proactive people wouldn’t think of making a telephone call without first jotting down the items for discussion or going to the supermarket without first making a list of the items they need. They don’t resent looking at a map before taking a trip or googling a prospect’s website before meeting making a cold sales call or reading the instructions before assembling a swing set.
These practices can be developed and nurtured until they become habits. Practice with little things, such as deciding before going to bed what clothes you will be wearing the next morning. You may discover that something needs pressing. In the morning, mentally walk through the day. What time will you leave the house, where will you park, what jobs will you do first, etc. The more times you think ahead, the more comfortable you will become with planning. As you see your days running smoother, with fewer crises and problems, the more you will be encouraged to become proactive in everything you do.
How To Be a Proactive Worker in 6 Steps
Discover the definition and characteristics of a proactive worker, learn the steps you can take to work proactively and explore tips to form proactive habits.
How To Be a Proactive Worker in 6 Steps
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published June 16, 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Proactive behavior is when people identify and solve problems before they occur. In the workplace, proactive behavior involves planning and preparing for upcoming tasks or noticing when others might need help. By investing in your professional skills and being mindful of your workplace habits, you can become a proactive worker who makes a positive impact on team workflows. In this article, we examine the characteristics of a proactive worker and share tips for how to become one.
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What is a proactive worker?
A proactive worker is a person who takes initiative to identify problems and complete tasks without requiring instruction or guidance from a supervisor. They anticipate upcoming work, prepare resources and complete certain tasks early. Proactive workers consider what they can do to improve project efficiency and avoid challenges in the workplace. Some key characteristics of a proactive worker include:
Organized: Proactive workers use planning and organization to manage their responsibilities and time wisely. You can apply organization skills to mean assessing your current workload, predicting challenges, managing deadlines and scheduling time for future assignments.
Calm: Conducting your work in a calm, rational manner is an important part of being proactive at work. When unexpected tasks and changes occur, proactive workers use logic to calmly address these challenges. Considering and planning various scenarios and solutions can help you remain calm in any situation.
Solution-oriented: Since proactive workers think strategically about how to complete upcoming tasks, they have a solution-oriented mindset and strong critical thinking skills. To be a proactive worker, brainstorm creative ways to solve or prevent problems in different scenarios.
Engaged: Engagement means committing to your job with enthusiasm and thinking about the impact of your behaviors. Anticipating work, starting early and setting goals requires and engaged, committed mindset.
Related: How To Use Proactive Management Techniques in the Workplace
How to be a proactive worker
If you want to become a proactive worker, there are a few steps you can take to get started. Before an upcoming project, practice being proactive by implementing these steps:
Learn about the best way to be proactive in your role by researching trends in the workplace. Identify busy and slow periods to identify when you can plan and get ahead on your work. You might also consider how long specific projects took, how difficult they were to complete and what resources you used to complete them. Looking for trends in past data may help you be more proactive with future tasks.
Related: How Analyzing Data Can Improve Decision-Making
Use your data analysis to organize future assignments. Manager your calendar to log any upcoming tasks and include any helpful data from previous projects. You might even add reminders before certain start dates and schedule time to prepare. For example, if your annual performance reviews take two weeks to complete, you might set a reminder to review the previous year's objectives and organize your notes. This can help you focus on the task and complete it more efficiently.
Related: How To Effectively Organize Your Calendar
Set goals for yourself and outline the steps you might take to complete them. Consider what tasks can do to simplify upcoming responsibilities. This may include purchasing materials, emailing colleagues requesting information or completing ongoing tasks to increase your capacity for new assignments. Write to-do lists that include your daily responsibilities and any possible upcoming tasks. Dedeicate time in your schedule every day to manage, plan and optimize your tasks.
Communicate your plans to supervisors and colleagues to set expectations about your capabilities and responsibilities. Tell your manager when you start additional projects and ensure you have approval to work on advanced assigmments. If you plan to submit a project ahead of schedule, communicate your deadlines and requests early so other colleagues working on the project can prepare.
Related: The Components of Effective Workplace Communication
Follow your original plans and hold yourself accountable to achieve your objectives. While completing tasks, consider potential risks, delays and factors that may arise that can affect your goals. Regularly check your progress and identify outstanding needs to prevent becoming overwhelmed or stressed. Give yourself rewards and incentives each time you exceed a goal to maintain a strong pace throughout the day.
Reflecting on your work and finding ways to improve is an important part of being proactive. Reflection can help you identify any areas where you might improve for future projects, making it easier to invest in your professional development. If you noticed you missed some details when organizing your data, take more time to edit and review data during your next project.