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Are You Proactive or Reactive?

Are You Proactive or Reactive?

    “If you’re proactive, you don’t have to wait for circumstances or other people to create perspective expanding experiences. You can consciously create your own.

    Stephen Covey

    Proactivity is, according to Stephen Covey, one of the most important characteristics of successful and personally effective people. In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey sees proactivity as the foundation of all the other 6 Habits, and therefore has proactivity as Habit #1.

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    Covey regards proactivity as the act of taking charge of your life, being responsible for it, and taking action to master your life. Covey focuses on choice as a principle that underlies proactivity, as we ultimately have the choice on how we respond to what happens to us in our lives and it is our reactions that determine how things affect us. People who lack the proactivity habit tend to be more reactive, seeing themselves as victims of circumstance, unable to change their reactions, thus feeling much less empowered.

    People who play the game of “tit for tat” in an argument are being reactive.  They are reacting to what the other person is saying rather than being grounded and more rational where they take responsibility for their emotional triggers.  The mentality that “he makes me so mad” or “she made me feel bad about myself” are examples of the victim language

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    Underlying the Habit of Proactivity according to Covey are:      

    • The ability to set goals and work towards achieving them.
    • Creating opportunities, not waiting for them to come your way
    • Taking conscious control of your life
    • Understanding the choice you have in engineering your life
    •  Applying your own personal principles and core values in making decision
    •  Having imagination and creativity to explore possible alternatives
    • Realizing you have independent will to choose your own unique response.

    Covey differentiates between the “have’s” and the “be’s.” The latter focuses on your character and how you can take charge of your life. Instead of focusing on the thought “If I had a better job,” a proactive person would focus on thoughts like “I can be more resourceful to find another job or make the best of this one.”

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    Proactive Takeaways

    1.  Remember the importance of being proactive and not reactive!
    2.  If you feel like a rudderless boat which is in chaotic motion without you taking charge at the helm, remind yourself that you can take the helm and can be the captain of your ship.
    3.  Write a specific action plan, whether it be a checklist, schedule, or chart in which you reward yourself for sticking to your goals.
    4.  Replace Covey’s “Have” thoughts with “Be” thoughts – For example: The thought “If I had a better boss” can be changed to “I can “be” a more effective employee.
    5.  Enlist support. Do not hesitate to seek support from others in sticking to your plans. Just because you are the captain of your life does not mean that you need to go it alone. It’s always nice to have crew!
    6.  Plan ways to manage your time and do not spread yourself too thin! Do not let your time divide you – you can divide your time.

    So, if you find yourself having a hard time taking your power back from others, how about spending some quiet time and writing down at least three “have” phrases and transform them into “be” phrases?  As you become stronger about your own sense of empowerment, you will find yourself growing by leaps and bounds.

    (Photo credit: Crossing out reactive and writing proactive via Shutterstock)

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    More by this author

    Judy Belmont

    Mental health author, motivational speaker and psychotherapist

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    Last Updated on May 22, 2020

    10 Practical Ways to Improve Time Management Skills

    10 Practical Ways to Improve Time Management Skills

    Do you often feel stressed out with too much work or too many responsibilities? As time passes, do you feel like you have more tasks on hand than you have time to do them?

    The trick is to organize your tasks and use your time effectively to get more things done each day. This can help you to lower stress levels and improve your productivity both at work and at home.

    Time management skills take time to develop and will look different for each person. Finding what works best for you and your busy schedule is key here.

    To get you started, here are 10 ways to improve your time management skills and increase productivity.

    1. Delegate Tasks

    It is common for all of us to take on more tasks than we are capable of completing. This can often result in stress and burnout.

    Delegation does not mean you are running away from your responsibilities but are instead learning proper management of your tasks. Learn the art of delegating work to your subordinates as per their skills and abilities and get more done. This will not only free up time for you but will help your team members feel like an integral piece of the work puzzle.

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    2. Prioritize Work

    Before the start of the day, make a list of tasks that need your immediate attention. Unimportant tasks can consume much of your precious time, and we tend to offer these too much of our energy because they are easier or less stressful.

    However, identifying urgent tasks that need to be completed on that day is critical to your productivity. Once you know where to put your energy, you will start to get things done in an order that works for you and your schedule.

    In short, prioritize your important tasks to keep yourself focused.

    3. Create a Schedule

    Carry a planner or notebook with you and list all the tasks that come to your mind. Being able to check off items as you complete them will give you a sense of accomplishment and keep you motivated.

    Make a simple ‘To Do’ list before the start of the day, prioritize the tasks, and focus on the essentials. Make sure that these tasks are attainable, too. If there is a big task you need to complete, make that the only thing on your list. You can push the others to the next day. 

    To better manage your time management skills, you may think of making 3 lists: work, home and personal.

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    4. Set up Deadlines

    When you have a task at hand, set a realistic deadline and stick to it. Once you set a deadline, it may be helpful to write it on a sticky note and put it near your workspace. This will give you a visual cue to keep you on task.

    Try to set a deadline a few days before the task is due so that you can complete all those tasks that may get in the way. Challenge yourself and meet the deadline; reward yourself for meeting a difficult challenge.

    5. Overcome Procrastination

    Procrastination is one of the things that has a negative effect on productivity. It can result in wasting essential time and energy. It could be a major problem in both your career and your personal life[1].

    Avoiding procrastination can be difficult for many. We tend to procrastinate when we feel bored or overwhelmed. Try to schedule in smaller, fun activities throughout the day to break up the more difficult tasks. This may help you stay on track.

    6. Deal With Stress Wisely

    Stress often occurs when we accept more work than we are capable of accomplishing. The result is that our body starts feeling tired, which can affect our productivity.

    Stress comes in various forms for different people, but some productive ways to deal with stress can include:

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    1. Getting outside
    2. Exercising
    3. Practicing meditation
    4. Calling up a friend
    5. Participating in your favorite hobby
    6. Listening to music or a podcast

    The key is to find what works for you when it comes to lowering your stress response. If you don’t have time for anything else, try a couple of breathing techniques. These can be done in minutes and have been proven to lower stress-inducing hormones.

    7. Avoid Multitasking

    Most of us feel that multitasking is an efficient way of getting things done, but the truth is that we do better when we focus and concentrate on one thing. Multitasking hampers productivity and should be avoided to improve time management skills.

    Make use of to-do lists and deadlines to help you stay focused! This way you can do better at what you’re doing. Wait until you finish one before starting another. You’ll be surprised by how much more you’re able to get done.

    8. Start Early

    Most successful people have one thing in common — they start their day early as it gives them time to sit, think, and plan their day.

    When you get up early, you are more calm, creative, and clear-headed. As the day progresses, your energy levels start going down, which affects your productivity, motivation, and focus[2].

    If you’re not a morning person, you can just try waking up thirty minutes earlier than your normal time. You’ll be amazed by how much you can get done in that bit of time. If you don’t want to use it to work, use it to do a bit of exercise or eat a healthy breakfast. This kind of routine will also contribute to your productivity during the day.

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    9. Take Regular Breaks

    Whenever you find yourself feeling tired and stressed, take a break for 10 to 15 minutes. Too much stress can take a toll on your body and affect your productivity.

    And even better, schedule your break times. It helps you to relax and gets back to work with energy again later. If you know a break is coming, you’ll likely be able to overcome boredom or a lack of motivation to push through the task at hand.

    Take a walk, listen to some music, or do some quick stretches. The best idea is to take a break from work completely and spend time with your friends and family.

    10. Learn to Say No

    Politely refuse to accept additional tasks if you think that you’re already overloaded with work. Take a look at your to do list before agreeing to take on extra work.

    Many people worry that saying no will make them look selfish, but the truth is that saying no is one of the best ways to take care of yourself and your time. When you take care of this, you’ll find you have more energy to devote to the important things, which the people around you will ultimately appreciate.

    Final Thoughts

    When you get clear about what’s on your plate, you’ll be more focused and get more done in less time.

    Good time management requires a daily practice of prioritizing tasks and organizing them in a way that can save time while achieving more. Use the above strategies for few weeks and see if they help you. You may be surprised just how much more time you seem to have.

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    Featured photo credit: Brad Neathery via unsplash.com

    Reference

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