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Published on January 28, 2021

How To Be Proactive At Work: 4 Habits To Build

How To Be Proactive At Work: 4 Habits To Build

I don’t know about you, but it was nearly impossible for me to be proactive at work last year.

Every week, I would map out my game plan and color-code my calendar. But when I tried to set things in motion, I faced ten-foot barriers that would force me to change direction. I’d have to reschedule meetings, push deadlines back, and reorganize my life because of all the twists and turns. Pivoting became my life, and it was taking over every part of it.

When I think back to 2020, it was like trying to survive the Tour de France blindfolded. By the end of the year, I was worn out, and I was in no mood to organize my 2021 goals. Being proactive was the furthest from my mind. In many ways, I didn’t even want to dream about new projects.

When January 1st entered the scene, I crawled back under my covers and hoped for the best—or at least a year that would be more predictable with less pivoting.

You want to be hopeful for this year, but a part of you is afraid of another year filled with more barriers and you’re tired of trying to survive the chaos. You’re not alone.

Over 100,000 businesses have permanently shut their doors because of Covid-19.[1] Start-Ups aren’t getting a second chance.[2] And according to Pew Research, one in four adults still have a hard time finding money to pay their bills.[3]

This reality is not the most inspiring for those of us who are business leaders. If anything, it feels like the grim reaper is right around the corner to destroy our dreams and add us to the rising number of failed companies.

Being proactive is one of the most challenging things to muster right now. But it is one of the most imperative traits that we need to embrace.

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If you want your business to succeed in 2021, you need to be proactive at work. It won’t be easy, but it will be a lot easier with these 4 practical habits that I’ve put together for you. These tools will make all the difference for you and your organization.

Let’s get started.

1. Want to Be Proactive at Work? Don’t Be Busy

Repeat after me: only do what is necessary—no more and no less.

If you’re anything like me, as soon as January 1st comes along, you cram in all your five-year goals into one packed year. You love seeing your schedule filled. But being busy isn’t the same as being productive. Being proactive requires you to take a step back, reevaluate your priorities, and actually take things off of your plate before adding new goals.

The brain is not designed to always operate at full capacity twenty-four hours a day.[4] It needs a break. If we’re constantly immersing ourselves throughout the day with frivolous tasks, then we don’t have time to concentrate on our goals.

This year, I’m taking a break from the chaos and learning to do fewer tasks with more investment.

Think of it this way. Planning takes time. It’s like painting an apartment. Before you can add color to the drab walls of your living room, you have to plan and prep the area. The same is true for being proactive at work.

2. Stop Trying to Run Everyone’s Race

If you want to direct the narrative of your life, you need to take a step back and get rid of the clutter. Figure out what you can delegate and then, focus your energy away from the distractions. Not every email needs a reply, and not every job is right for you.

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Shakespeare said it best,[5]

“To thine own self be true.”

These six words need to become your mantra.

If you want to reach your goals this year and be proactive, you need to walk forward with laser focus. If you compare yourself or your business to the next big thing, you won’t contribute anything except a lesser copy of yourself and your organization.

Stop looking around. Your purpose is not to run the race of someone else. If you want to be proactive at work, you need to stop comparing yourself to your neighbor and stick to running your own race. It’s the only way that you’ll win.

3. Make “Essentialism” Your 2021 Word

When you’re figuring out your 2021 goals, take time to weigh the cost. Ask yourself if it’s worth the investment. Being proactive means that you take into consideration all the variables before cementing your goals.

Before you map out your plan or get crazy with those highlighters, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Will this goal help create balance in my life?
  • Will this goal produce a return on investment?

If you can answer a resounding “yes” to both of these questions, then take these ideas and write them down on a piece of paper.

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After you’ve compiled a list of 15 to 20 ideas, take a new sheet of paper and break it into two columns. The first section should contain a list of goals that take priority. These ideas would fall under the umbrella of being trend-related and financially profitable.

The second section should contain a list of goals that will increase your social proof and promote your priority goals. This column drives traffic and promotes awareness of your business and your product.

After you’ve compiled this list, break it in half and cut it down to three goals in each section. Three is the perfect number because it gives you leeway to pivot and bend if you need to make changes throughout the process.

The two excellent tools that have helped me develop a schedule of essentialism are Hilary Rushford’s Elegant Excellence Journal[6] and Jill Konrath’s book, “More Sales. Less Time.

Both of these tools have helped me focus on what’s important, make the best decisions for my business, and make a profit without sacrificing my health.

4. Order the Same Latte

When you look at the greats in the business world, they all encompass one thing: simplicity.

If you minimize your choices and stick to the basics, you’ll have the ability to save time and focus your energy on decisions that require your creativity. Keeping up with the latest fashion trends not only sacrifices your time but also sacrifices your budget.

Remember, it’s not about looking successful. It’s about making choices that give you the ability to be successful.

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Here are four things that you can do to save time to make you more proactive at work:

  • Buy multiples of the same outfit and mix and match throughout the week.
  • Order the same drink each day from the same coffee shop.
  • Prepare meals at the beginning of the week for lunch and dinner.
  • Set your alarm for the same time each morning, including weekends.

It’s impossible to be proactive if you feel rushed. But if you follow the four tips that are listed above, you’ll gain more time in your schedule and have more energy to lead your business and operate with a well-organized game plan.

Final Thoughts

I think the majority of us are tired of feeling like we’re contestants in Survivor. After all, who wants to be filmed while living in the woods and surviving off of bugs and tree bark?

All kidding aside. This past year has been challenging. But we can learn a lot from these past twelve months.

If you want to be proactive, simplify your schedule, focus on your path, only take what you need, and be purposeful with your time and energy. Being proactive is not about filling up your schedule. It’s about creating balance in your life.

I know it seems daunting right now, and many of us are still trying to figure out how to pay this month’s rent with spare change from the couch. But if you take the time to prepare and figure out what’s a priority this year, you’ll not only meet your goals, you’ll enjoy the journey.

You have all the tools you need to be proactive at work. Now, go map out your 2021 goals for the year!

More Tips on How to Be Proactive

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Colleen Batchelder

Diversity and Inclusion Consultant and Leadership Strategist | Executive Coach | Dr. Batchelder teaches business leaders how to create corporations where Millennials want to work.

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Last Updated on March 4, 2021

How To Make the Right Career Choice After 30 And Succeed

How To Make the Right Career Choice After 30 And Succeed

In college, you have about a one in three chance of switching majors at least once, according to government stats.[1] It’s not a big deal then, because you’re not locked into a professional path. What happens, though, when you want to make a career change later? Are you stuck at 30 with the career choice you made at 20? Not at all.

In fact, plenty of people make minor and significant career power moves after adulting for a few years. Some have become disenchanted with their original picks. Others realize their talents are more suitable in some other field. Whatever the reason, all career movers usually feel trepidation. After all, busting out of an unfulfilling career choice before midlife seems daunting.

Here’s the truth, though—it doesn’t have to cause undue amounts of stress. Truth be told, you can do a full u-turn professionally with a career choice that works. You just have to take a few steps to up the chances of emotional, intellectual, and fiscal success.

1. Stop Pursuing Your Future Life on Today’s Terms

As Jason Jaggard, the founder of executive coaching firm Novus Global, points out, you don’t have to waste time finding out how to live life on your terms. Why? You’re already doing it—you just don’t realize you’re doing it!

“Your life is the perfect expression of your current terms. Before you try to be successful on your own terms, first you’ll want to improve your terms.”[2]

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Consequently, you need to figure out why your current life has worked for you so far, why it doesn’t work now, and what price you are willing to pay to change it. For instance, you might be going to a nine-to-five job and making “x” amount of dollars annually. What has the 9 to 5 gotten you so far? (i.e. security?) So, security is one of your current terms. But is that the term you want? Maybe not.

Figure out what your next-gen terms will be. You’ll be in a better position to negotiate them as you look into a new career.

2. Audition a Bunch of Careers

Before you dive into a career choice that seems like a dream come true, act like Simon Cowell and audition a few possibilities. Consider it something like a taste test. Set out a buffet of business options and then figure out a way to try them all. As an example, you might want to shadow someone in the career or interview a person from LinkedIn—yes, even a stranger. People are quite open to responding to requests for guidance.

Evaluating numerous paths will only help you feel better about your upcoming move. The last thing you want to do is assume that a field will be “the one,” only to find out you were wrong. That’s like going into a marriage after only a first date. So, allow yourself to think big, but don’t commit to any specific career choice until you’ve tried on several.

3. Pinpoint Your North Star

Every job seeker and career climber has a North Star. It’s Mt. Everest, the pinnacle of “I made it!

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Jawad Ahsan, the best-selling author of What They Didn’t Tell Me, says you need your North Star as a guide. Ahsan recommends that once you have it, you can “work backwards from there to where you are today, and focus on the experiences you need to get to stay on your path.” He suggests getting help from sherpas along the way, such as honest mentors.

What if you’re having difficulty focusing on your North Star? Picture yourself in three years. Where are you? What does your life look like? Be general. Don’t get all muddied in specific jobs. Just be open-minded. Do you want to manage others? Work independently? Be creative? Help people solve big (or small) problems? Your answers will help you define your North Star.

4. Keep Your Day Job—for Now

As you become more excited at the thought of a career change, you might be tempted to quit whatever you’re doing now. Please don’t. You’ll only set yourself up for potential hardship. Here’s why: It can be very challenging to explain to a would-be recruiter why you suddenly left a position. The recruiter may see you as a “flight risk,” and that’s not a good look.

Yes, it can be tough to keep going into an office or situation that leaves you disengaged. Nevertheless, you will at least have income flowing into your account. And having enough money today will keep you from fretting if you have to take a lower salary temporarily later. After all, sometimes, reaching your North Star will require detours like going back to school or taking lesser paying positions.

5. Try a Side Hustle

Many people have discovered that the gig economy isn’t just a way to earn some extra bucks while you’re working full time. It’s a terrific, low-risk method to try out careers.

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Consider this: You would love to work on old cars for a living. But you’re currently an accountant, and your family counts on your income to cover expenses. As a result, you start a little side business working on a few friends’ antique autos from your home garage.

In time, you get quite the reputation as someone who knows how to turn a clunker into a status symbol. With a little help from a decent website, word-of-mouth marketing, and thoughtful digital advertising, you land lots of clients. If you can reach a tipping point, you can flip your side gig. How? Perhaps you keep working as an accountant during tax season but fix cars the rest of the time.

6. Get in Gear to “Skill Up”

Unless your career change choice is a straight lateral move from what you’re doing today, you’ll need new expertise. Fortunately, you live in a virtual world. That means you can take courses online from reputable organizations and universities. Some classes and workshops are free or extremely affordable, too. This allows you to upskill in a precise way to boost your resume.

As you begin to enhance your abilities and education, start expanding your network. For instance, on LinkedIn, begin to connect with people in fields that might interest you. Don’t be afraid to ask strangers to become connections. Lots of people will say yes. You can even message them and ask for suggestions in ways to get more experience in particular industries.

7. Remain Patient Throughout the Process

What’s one of the biggest reasons job hoppers lose faith when trying to change careers in their 30s or beyond? The answer is easy—lack of patience. It can be tough to wait months or years to get what you want. That’s why you have to keep yourself motivated (and why you shouldn’t allow yourself to be ruled by the negative people in your world).

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Some people like to keep journals of their day-to-day journeys. This keeps them focused on the ultimate prize. Others literally remind themselves of their passions regularly so they aren’t tempted to quit. Veering away from a career path takes a lot of inner strength. Surround yourself with supportive family and friends and leave the naysayers beyond.

8. Prepare Yourself Financially

When you’re just setting out on your career in your early 20s, you aren’t as worried about earning a salary. Sure, you have bills to pay. But you probably don’t own a house or maybe even a car. Switching careers in your 30s is a completely different ballgame.

By the time you’re in your 30s, you likely have multiple financial obligations. You might even have a spouse or kiddos or at least a furry friend. Utility bills, internet payments, and student loans add up. Therefore, do yourself a huge bonus and sock away money as soon as you realize you’re going to change careers.

9. Share Your Career Choice Goals With Others

It can be tough to make good decisions in a vacuum because you’ll probably miss something. Consequently, you may want to share your career change decisions with close friends or loved ones. Explain what you want to do, and listen to their responses. They might have some amazing feedback or ideas that you never considered.

Will some people try to talk you out of shifting careers? Certainly. Don’t dismiss their concerns out of hand, though. Instead, hear them out. What they say might include a few nuggets of wisdom that you can use. Besides, you’ll appreciate having folks to share your successes with when everything starts to come to fruition.

Final Thoughts

Above all else, your life is a journey ideally dictated by what you need and want. If you’re approaching 30 and feeling disconnected careerwise, contemplate a move. You’ll be in good company with all the others who have made the trip before you.

More Career Advice

Featured photo credit: Tim Gouw via unsplash.com

Reference

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