It’s no coincidence that some people always seem to have their lives organized. These are the ones who, when you turn to them for a spare pen, extra face mask, or safety pin, will always help you.
Oh, and did we mention they are always punctual and rarely have any pending work?
So, what’s their secret? Wouldn’t it be great to learn how to anticipate and be always ready for what’s to come?
In this post, we explain what it means to be proactive. We’ll walk you through the whole process of how to be proactive at work and in life.
Let’s get into it!
What Does it Mean to be Proactive?
It’s no surprise that proactive employees are in high demand in organizations. They are the ones who are frequently selected for project management, team leadership, and management training, among other leadership positions.
But, what do they do that others don’t? Well, they don’t need to be told to take the initiative. It’s such a trait that puts them at the forefront.
Proactivity is the ability to anticipate future problems, allowing them to become prepared. It’s the opposite of being reactive, where work issues take you by surprise and leave you running up and down, trying to fix them.
How to Be Proactive at Work
To be proactive means being able to identify and resolve important workplace problems. A proactive approach involves seeking out opportunities, seizing them, and trying to create change by improving yourself and those around you.
However, it doesn’t stop there.
Proactivity goes beyond anticipating future events at work. You also need to learn how to use this trait in life. It has to do with the ability to take an active role, think ahead, and make decisions as part of a larger, long-term plan.
You, too, can become the most valuable employee by constantly getting on top of things, being actively engaged, and achieving goals.
Check out the list of 15 things you can do to become proactive at work and then go into the details.
1. Prioritize Tasks
Understandably, you can’t do everything, and we know too well that multitasking usually ends up in time wastage. That’s why you should always prioritize your tasks, so you can focus on your work in order of priority.
The best way to achieve this is to create a to-do list. Simply jot down all the tasks you need to accomplish and rank them according to urgency or importance. Map out your day, assigning deadlines to each item to help you focus on completing them.
When estimating the time it takes to complete each task, be sure to leave time for unscheduled events. For example, your boss may want you to check out some things for them, or a co-worker may request help on certain matters. It’s good to remember that something unexpected will always pop up, and anticipating that ensures your day isn’t ruined.
Most importantly, inform your employer, client, or team members about your commitments, so they don’t overload you with work.
2. Create Checklists
Speaking of prioritizing tasks, checklists ensure that you don’t miss anything. By writing everything you want to be done each day, you’ll have better focus and work more efficiently.
It’s advisable to create your checklist at the end of your workday. This way, you can review what you accomplished and which tasks are still pending.
You can then relocate them for the next day. Remember to update your checklist after each event so you can stay on track. Be sure to add new tasks to your to-do list to get the big picture of everything you’re supposed to be working on.
Whenever possible, try to listen to discussions around you even if they are irrelevant to your work. It’s the best way to gain insight from people you deem as role models, as well as coworkers.
You can learn a thing or two about their leadership techniques and identify opportunities to capitalize on. Make it known that you want to be more involved and build your own repertoire.
Additionally, don’t underestimate the power of small talk. There’s always plenty to learn from managers and other team members. Network with people across the organization whenever possible. Find and connect with leaders you can emulate.
For example, if you wanted a promotion, you may seek information on how they did it and figure out how to work your way up.
Networking helps you stand out, and you’re more likely to be remembered when opportunities spring up.
4. Ask for Feedback and Act on Them
A proactive employee actively seeks feedback from management and coworkers. Not only does it show a desire to learn and improve, but also gives your employers a new benchmark for growth.
Unlike the old days where workers were exclusively reviewed by management, organizations are now implementing the 360-degree performance appraisal technique. It’s more inclusive and allows fellow employees to provide feedback on their teammate’s job performance.
Your proactivity may be having negative impacts on other teams, and feedback will help point this out. This method gives you valuable insight into how your performance affects others.
Once you receive feedback, carefully reflect on it and act to implement the suggestions. Don’t take recommendations and comments personally. The most important thing to do is to welcome constructive feedback so you can work better and more efficiently.
Remember, feedback benefits both parties. So, just as you would like to receive feedback, consider giving it to others as well. Just make sure your feedback is timely, actionable, and specific.
When giving feedback, it’s crucial to be aware of the words you use to avoid creating friction among co-workers or between a worker and their supervisor.
5. Be Open to Ideas
Being proactive means you are open to change and new ideas aimed at self-improvement. Let’s say, your boss or company just landed a new project that interests you, and you’ve heard they are looking to hire.
Don’t be afraid to ask to be assigned. It might just be the opening you’ve been waiting for to advance your career. Don’t lose heart if you don’t get it this time. The fact that you showed initiative puts you in a better place of being considered the next time such an opportunity arises.
The same goes if a different role opens in your organization. Go ahead and apply for it. Chances are you might just get it. Hiring is a costly process, and management would prefer assigning the role to an internal employee, who they already know.
Being open to ideas relates closely to receiving feedback and acting on them. Listen to what others are saying about you and leverage this information.
6. Learn to be Calm, Polite, and Thoughtful
Being proactive means working well with others. It involves developing a friendly attitude towards your workmates, supporting them in their projects, and respectfully responding to them. A good team member lends their ears to co-workers and helps out whenever they can.
Snapping at fellow workers is being reactive. So, avoid reacting immediately to issues and make objective and thoughtful decisions. Being irrational won’t go well with your employers and team members. This can create tension at the workplace, and end up affecting productivity.
Getting along with coworkers improves workplace relationships and allows you to collaborate more constructively. Remember, goodness is paid back with goodness.
7. Stay Organized
Staying organized is another effective tip to being proactive at work. Instead of wasting time reacting to things as they happen, developing organizational skills ensures effective time management. When you’re organized, you’ll know what needs to be accomplished and when. You’ll be able to create more balance at work and avoid feeling swamped since you’ll have everything under control.
What’s more, you’ll know which tasks to prioritize, so you’ll rarely miss deadlines. Being organized means you can schedule your time properly and know how to spend it. You can use one of the several planners or digital apps available to help you organize your work.
Creating a checklist, for example, allows you to determine which tasks to eliminate, merge, or shorten. You’ll also be able to review your results at the end of your workday and try to establish why you didn’t hit your targets.
Being organized entails several aspects, such as responding to emails and calls, automating email marketing, and managing appointments and meetings efficiently. It also involves ensuring your files are organized, knowing when to delegate tasks, and planning your day accordingly.
8. Develop a Routine
Working with a routine makes working on your tasks seamless. Routines have been shown to boost productivity since you already know which tasks follow once you’re done with the current one.
A routine creates a familiar path that’s easy to stick by. Doing this on repeat gives you room to improve each day and become better at managing time. You’ll be able to determine the things that throw you off course and strive to resolve them. This way, you get back on course easily.
Most importantly, don’t forget to take short breaks throughout the day. You don’t want to suffer from burnout or a sore back. After all, breaks allow you to stretch and re-energize before getting back to work, something health experts highly recommend.
Finding a routine that works for you may take time, but once you do, you’ll have fewer things to complain about.
9. Embrace the 80/20 Technique
Applying the 80/20 rule or Pareto Principle is one of the most effective ways to succeed in life and at work. Put simply, it means setting yourself up in such a way that 20 percent of your input is responsible for 80 percent of your results.
Think of it as working smarter, not harder. The 80/20 rule is a matter of focusing on things that give you the most in your life while taking up little of your time. This principle teaches that working extra hours doesn’t equate to being more productive.
Usually, our minds have a limit when it comes to focusing, and when you hit that lowest point, you’ll add less “oomph” to your tasks. That’s why prioritizing tasks is crucial. Categorize tasks by urgency and importance and move the rest forward.
10. Plan Meticulously
Reactive people are guilty of short-term thinking. While short-term goals are essential, long-term goals will help you avoid the shortcomings of failing to plan. Successful employees understand the value of long-term thinking in helping them advance their careers and land that coveted promotion.
Planning allows you to understand the big picture and know what you want to achieve. Part of good preparation is understanding when you’re most focused and energetic. Schedule your day so that you do the most cognitive-intensive work around those times.
An effective time tracker like Traqq can come in handy in such situations:
- It records the time spent working and provides data that can help you learn about your performance and productivity.
- Apart from tracking your progress, you’ll learn times of day when you are most active by checking your activity levels.
- You can also generate reports to review your efficiency at work and adjust your schedule accordingly.
Furthermore, using an online monitoring app enables you to analyze how much time, on average, you take to complete each task. Doing so allows you to work towards becoming more efficient, so you can achieve the expected results in less time.
11. Follow Up
Following up on things is a good workplace practice that shows the management you’re proactive. It eliminates time wastage and puts you ahead of things. For example, it’s important to follow up on whether the scheduled meeting will still take place.
Doing so keeps you informed of any changes that may have come up. Additionally, you can follow up on invitations, job applications, and emails.
Following up on customers shows you’re invested in what they think and their overall experience. It doesn’t have to be something complicated. You can simply thank them for choosing to work with you, buying your product, or subscribing.
You may get feedback or crucial information on areas that you need to improve or if more actions are required. Use platforms like phone calls, emails, texts, social media, etc., to follow up.
12. Work with Goals
Setting goals for yourself sets you up for excellence. Goals help you stay on the right path of the things you want to achieve in life and at work. It’s not always easy to stay on course.
However, committing to achieve the desired outcomes takes you closer to attaining your goals.
The secret is to be passionate about what you do and give it your all. Remember to celebrate your successes, big or small, every time you hit your targets. Think of it as self-appreciation.
13. Ask Questions
You can’t be proactive if you’re too shy to ask questions. Asking questions allows you to learn from others and gather useful information that can help influence your decision-making.
For example, if you want to get a promotion, you may want to ask specific questions to someone who has already been there to understand how things work. Doing so exhibits the things you want to step up. It shows you want to empower yourself more and seek continuous improvement.
You’ll also be able to learn from past mistakes and build upon your skills. Companies strive to engage employees in training and development programs as one of the incentives to retain workers.
Who knows, by asking the right questions, you may open opportunities you never knew existed.
14. Participate Actively at Work
A proactive employee is an active participant in company discussions. Don’t sit on the sidelines just observing and listening as your peers give suggestions. Participate actively and take action, be it providing input during meetings or formulating plans for the upcoming company family fun day.
Other ways of becoming an active participant include volunteering, participating in company events, offering opinions, and helping others become better versions of themselves.
15. Communicate in a Timely Manner
We can’t reiterate enough the significance of communication in any business setting. It’s what eliminates misunderstandings, resource wastage, and potential losses.
When working on projects and you feel like you need more time, make a point to provide your supervisor with timely updates. If you are working as a team and need assistance, don’t hesitate to check with your teammates.
What seems impossible may actually be very simple if viewed from a different perspective.
When communicating with your boss, coworkers, clients, or customers, be sure to choose the appropriate medium of communication. Perhaps, not everyone can access emails quickly, or not everyone is on social media.
Certain details can quickly be conveyed via a text message. Meanwhile, others require further discussion, making a phone call more fitting. Using proper communication channels ensures that your message is received by all the concerned parties.
Characteristics of Being Proactive
Want to know if you’re proactive? Here are the top five characteristics of a proactive professional:
- Forward-thinker. You focus on the current situation but think long-term.
- Determination. Small failures don’t deter you from pushing toward achieving your goals.
- Unshakeable focus. You’re always focused on what you can control, and don’t let distractions and interruptions at work or home get in your way.
- Consistent Learner. You’re always seeking to improve your knowledge base to become better at what you do.
- Self-starter. You don’t wait for opportunities to unravel before you. You create them. Additionally, you participate fully in company matters and express your opinions openly.
How to Be Proactive in Life
Outside of the workplace, being proactive means facing issues as they arise instead of sweeping them under the rug. You communicate clearly and let people know your feelings. Moreover, you know when to say “NO” so people won’t misuse your time.
Being proactive in life also means:
- Knowing the importance of living a healthy life and finding time to work out.
- Striving to eat a balanced diet and going for regular checkups. Reactive people visit the doctor as a last resort.
- Getting all chores done and still having time to read your favorite book or watching your favorite show.
It’s all about staying organized, no matter what you do. In turn, your life becomes less complicated, and you get to spend more time with family.
Being proactive at work and in life pays off. These tips on how to be more proactive may take some practice and resilience. Start with the small things at work or home, like making sure everything stays organized.
Develop a routine and create a checklist of tasks you’ll do first thing the next day. Remember, procrastination has no place when it comes to proactivity. Every decision is a link in a chain of events, and one mistake can disrupt the entire process.
Finally, proactive people work with a timer to keep track of their time and work progress. Time tracking software lets them know how long they’ve been working on a project or task. They can use the recorded hours to determine if the project is profitable or not.
If you’re working with distributed teams, an employee monitoring tool enables you to keep tabs on what they are working on at any given time. The software also provides a central platform to quickly review the performance levels of each worker.
Ready to take the next step to become proactive?