Be Proactive NOT reactive – By Jenna Nixon, AKA Get-it-Together Blogs.
The art of being proactive is about taking control of your day, your time and those top priority tasks. It’s about maintaining focus regardless of distractions and most importantly, living and working intentionally towards your goals. Reactive people are often those who feel an unavoidable urge to drop everything at the ping of an incoming email or a notification for a Facebook comment, reactive people will likely respond instantly despite the notification being of little importance to them personally. Reactive people tend to act as a response to another person, rather than initiating projects and tasks for themselves. It is therefore very difficult for them to feel 100% focused on just one task at any one time, in fact multitasking for reactive people has become a large part of their day.
1. Plan Plan Plan
Planning ahead allows you to prepare for every occasion and provides a solid base for your day. Scheduling events and allocating time for additional tasks in advance, gives you a focus for the day and a point of call to come back to each time you find yourself being side tracked. This is an effective way to accomplish long-term goals which otherwise would seem too far away to reach. Without a plan, you have no point of focus and display no sense of urgency around your goals, therefore you go about your day working in reaction to other’s needs, never actually completing your top priority tasks.
2. Prioritise EVERYTHING
This brings me onto my next point, PRIORITISE EVERYTHING! Being able to prioritise is a crucial skill to develop if you want to accomplish anything in life. We all know that there simply isn’t enough hours in the day for everything, and so the only reason you have accomplished anything in the past is because you prioritised it and made it a main focus until it was done. If you hadn’t done that, it would never have gotten done – makes sense?
During every planning session you must get REAL with yourself and be brutal with your priorities. Watch an hour less of TV if you want to get ahead on your work, allocate ‘no spend’ days if you’re trying to save money, set time aside on a daily basis to develop a new skill. Whatever it may be, be honest with yourself and do what you need to do to get your priorities straight!
3. Schedule and limit email time
Replying to emails and making your way through your inbox may feel productive, but realistically all you’re really doing is meeting other people’s deadlines and responding to their needs over your own. With such advances in communication technology we often feel pressured to be contactable 24/7. This pressure doesn’t really exist, unless your job requires you to save lives, no one will be hurt by you not responding to every message instantaneously. If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend to schedule email time into your working day and once that time is up, the inbox is closed. I could offer many tips on mastering your inbox management, but overall, it’s a case of prioritising your emails and sticking to the allocated time for responding to them. DO NOT run over on this time, it will rapidly eat into your day and you will be no more better off than you were when you started.
People will understand that you can’t be at your emails all day and that it may take a day or so for you to reply. As we all eventually realise this, it will relieve pressure off us all and allow us to focus and hone in on what matters, guilt free. The best way to overcome the pressure of being reached 24/7 is ironically through communication. Discuss with your main contacts of your intended email time slots and allow them to make use of that information. If they hope to reach you sooner rather than later, they will know to email during the time that you’ll be actively replying.
Now for the most basic hack of all! Do not give in to email notifications, how? TURN THEM OFF. If you have scheduled allocated time for email management then there is simply no need to have your notifications turned on all day and night. I suggest allocating a short block of time to cover urgent emails at the start of your work day and another chunk of time to tackle your inbox at the end of your work day. That way you’re spreading out your time and you don’t need to worry about missing any important messages later in the day.
4. Notifications OFF
Every time you see or hear a notification you’re instantly distracted and taken off your main point of focus, not to mention the pressure that’s then put on you to instantly respond to such notifications in record time.
No notifications = no distractions.
Responding to notifications in between focused work time is counterproductive and will only have adverse effects on your ability to maintain high quality work. Aside from important messages and phone calls, all other notifications tend not to require urgent attention and they definitely don’t deserve an instant response at the expense of your own work, happiness and success. Switch them off!
5. STOP Multitasking
I’ve touched on this in my ‘work-life-balance’ post, multitasking is NOT a thing – definitely not an achievable one anyway! You may think you are being more productive and proactive by multitasking and getting more done in less time, however multitasking is ultimately just you working whilst distracted. Can you honestly produce quality work when you’re distracted? I know there will be those geniuses out there who believe that they can, however it can’t be as quality as it would have been, had you not been distracted – am I right?
Focus on just one task or project at a time and give that your full attention before moving on to the next. The quality and efficiency of your work will most definitely thank you for it later.
6. Make a note
SOOOOOO simple yet unbelievably effective!! As we work and try to stay focused, we’re faced with little nuggets of thoughts that float in and out of our minds. Some may be irrelevant like, ‘I wonder if it’s raining tonight’ and others may be more important thoughts such as, ‘I must pick up that parcel this afternoon before the shop closes for the weekend’. Both of these are something you want to act on, each with varying importance, however neither of them requiring an instant reaction. As you sit down for work or begin whatever focused task you have chosen, make sure to have a small note book or sticky pad to hand. As and when fleeting thoughts pass through which you don’t wish to forget, take that very short moment to write it down before getting right back to your work. You may say ‘isn’t this taking me off my primary focus as I’m having to stop what I’m doing for it?’ Ask yourself this, how difficult is it to hold onto multiple pieces of information and also get engrossed into a project? Expecting your brain to remember a collection of thoughts whilst also working is basically like asking your mind to multitask. Now we’ve already discussed that this is not a productive way to work and so writing the thought down will get it out of your head and take the pressure off yourself as you no longer need to retain that information.
Of course, this rule will not apply for absolutely every fleeting thought! If you remember that you forgot to turn off your straighteners or that your dinner has been sat in the oven for far too long, then by all means ACT INSTANTLY! We want to be productive, but we also must be realistic.
7. Allocate tools to topics
In an ideal world we’d all have separate phones, tablets, laptops, desks and rooms for every different aspect of our lives; work, personal errands, chill time and studying. That way we could solely focus on the task in hand and shut off every other event and thought involved with general life. Of course, most of us don’t have that luxury, does anyone? It’s not exactly the most economical way to live!
That said, the one thing I have come across and found useful – a solution that won’t break the bank or require you to own several phones! Is using different apps for different areas of your life. For me, I like to handle all of my personal and home related tasks, reminders and notes with the App Wunderlist, I use OneNote for my self-development journal and I use my all-time favourite Trello App for all things work and blog related. Associating the use of different Apps for different aspects of my life enables me to remain focused and subconsciously tells my brain to shut off anything else which is unrelated at that time. I can then fully submerge my energy into the work at hand and be so much more productive in the long run.
To summarise, choosing to be proactive will help you maintain control over your life, time and daily productivity. Life, especially digital life, has become very good at keeping us alert and switched on to multiple streams of contact all at once. Our minds simply aren’t designed to take in such variance of information and we can’t possibly be expected to work efficiently alongside it all. We must first be proactive in recognising the changes we can make and implementing them into our lives, before we can expect it to become second nature and fully tackle our reactive tendencies.
If you take just one of these suggestions away and put it into action, I’d love to know your thoughts and if it had the positive change that you were hoping for! Let me know in the comments or drop me a message on Instagram @getittogether_blogs, I love hearing from you on this self-development journey.
Hope this amazing Guest-post by my friend Jenna from Get It Together Blogs has helped you to understand the importance of being Proactive and how it helps us to increase our productivity.
Don’t forget to check out Jenna’s super cool and helpful blog. She writes all about Self-Development, Health & Wellness, Delicious recipes and Lifestyle hacks. Click link below to check her blog.
If you wish to submit a guest post on my blog, contact me here. I do guest posts every Sunday.