Productivity Tip: Being Proactive versus Reactive

I’m a huge fan of efficiency, productivity and anything that might help me work smarter and faster without sacrificing quality.

One productivity tip I have learned, the hard way, over the years is about being intentionally proactive with my time. It might sound rather simple but it’s easier said than done and something I have to be constantly aware of to this day, especially as my business expands.

If you are like me then your day can easily get hijacked by the response to the inbound. The flood of emails, phone calls, people asking you to do this and that, the unexpected ___’s, social media messages, the meetings (that usually waste precious time), and everything else in between.

Can you relate?

Have you ever made it to the end of the day, looked back and wondered where the day went? You know you were busy but busy doing what?

That’s what happens when we live and work in a reactive mode, simply responding to the to-do list and the wants and needs of everyone else versus getting done what we need to get done first.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting there is anything bad with serving the needs of others. In fact, serving is the foundation for success but when the pendulum is tipped and out of balance that’s when things get out of whack.

If you want to get things done you have to be intentionally proactive. You must set aside the time, preferably before the inbound hits, to take care of the most important tasks of the day. This doesn’t just apply to your TO-DO list either, it can also be how you accomplish your I WANT TO DO list too… you know, the things you dream about but think you never have the time to accomplish?

So how do you do it?

Step 1: Schedule it.
It might look different for you than it does for me but I spend time at the end of each day plotting out what I WANT TO DO the next day. I prioritize a list of the top 2 or 3 things that I MUST get done and I schedule the time to do those things first (before the gremlins of interruption can sabotage my plans).

Step 2: Remove Distractions.
At the start of most days I don’t turn on the ringer to my office line for at least the first few hours of the day nor do I answer my cell phone (in most cases). I do open email first thing in the morning and scan it for anything urgent but then I usually shut it down for an hour or two so that it doesn’t temp to distract me. I also rarely schedule morning meetings or phone calls so that I can use that time to focus on what needs to get done.

Step 3: Commit and Act.
I do my best to hunker down and get the most important things accomplished first. It’s honestly amazing how much you can get done when you’ve planned it out and removed the distractions that get in the way. Once I’ve worked my way through at least 2 or 3 key things then I open everything else back up and carry on with my day (interruptions and inbound responses included).

My system works for me. It might or might not work for you but the point is the same regardless. If you aren’t being proactive then you’re likely being reactive and reactive will keep you busy but probably not busy on the things that will move you forward. It’s like running defense without an offense and expecting to score. It’s possible but less likely.

What say you? Do you battle with being proactive versus reactive? Do you have any other productivity tips that you use to help you get things done?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • I can relate! I struggle with this one a lot. I have definitely come to the end of the day and wondered what I actually got done! Even though I'd been working very hard all day, I hadn't worked toward completing steps on my project lists, which is what I had decided were the most important things to do. Removing distractions is definitely key. I like your idea of doing a WANT TO DO list at the end of the day. That's brilliant! Thanks!

    • I by no means have it figured out but through trial and error, I think I've found ways that work for me. Time is money or productivity so learning how to maximize it is key for me, as it should be for others. I want to work hard and get things done so that I can spend more time with my family and on some of the other projects that I've been dreaming up.

  • Great advice, Daniel. I think most of us probably struggle with be proactive. I will often do well at functioning this way for a while, then something will come along that gets me off task for a while and I am "off the wagon," so to speak. I have actually found the end-of-the-day planning for the next day to be very helpful in maintaining a focus as well as usuing some time on Friday to set some goals or make a list for the coming week.

    You have inspired me to make more of an effort to maintain a constant proactive approach.

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