How to Be Proactive

Being proactive means thinking and acting ahead of anticipated events; this means using foresight. Not only is it a great method for avoiding more work down the road, but it can be extremely important for averting disasters. Planning well for the future and for instituting systems at work and in study, and planning at home can make life easier, not just for you, but for others too, and besides, it may make you more popular. Many of us look to proactive people as the instigators of action and creative ideas in society. Here are some suggestions for helping you to become a more proactive person.


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    Self reflect, look at yourself and ask some questions:
    • What kinds of tasks do or don't come your way regularly? For example, at work, at home, during study etc.
    • What kinds of tasks come in large groups?
    • What kinds of tasks need attention when they arrive?
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    Examine critically how you might perform those tasks more efficiently. Before the next rush:
    • Create a plan, procedure, checklist or routine to accomplish the task.
    • Recruit and instruct others to assist with an urgent or large task.
    • Gather information you will need to perform a task, or if necessary information comes from a flow of people who bring the tasks, create a script, checklist, or form to capture it consistently.
    • Look for steps in the process to eliminate, consolidate, or shorten.
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    Try to prevent problems from ever arising. This means tackling possible failings in advance to prevent them from becoming a reality. Get into the habit of taking precautions and developing fallback plans
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    Develop a mindset that looks to solve problems instead of dwelling on them. Here’s how:
    • Define the problem (what is it exactly?)
    • Decide what needs to happen to overcome the problem and how you’re going to do that; and
    • Get on with it
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    Get and stay ahead of less-urgent, day-to-day tasks. Doing so means that they'll be out of the way when rushes come and will not be worrying you unnecessarily. Pay particular attention to preventative maintenance, whether that means checking the fluids in your car, restocking your pantry, or setting aside a bit of money in savings each week. A little effort up front could save you from a larger crisis later.
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    Know which tasks are priorities and which can wait. Write out daily lists of tasks and head the list, ‘I will do’ and not ‘to do’. Boldly cross off each item as it is achieved. Keep this list nearby and let it direct your actions. If it goes too long without crossing anything off, reassess what you are doing to make sure that you do finish the tasks listed on it.
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    Eliminate any task that is unnecessary. Some things do not need doing, or do not need to be done by you. Do not waste time on them and do not allow a misplaced sense of guilt lead you into thinking that somehow you are responsible for them. If tasks are unnecessary, they will not add to your effort and are thus, a waste of energy. Be ruthless in making this assessment about the value of a task.
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    Evaluate your procedures and processes as you use them. What works and what does not? Make notes for improvements, and incorporate those improvements during the next lull. Discard anything that does not work but take care to note when something is in need of tweaking and adjust it accordingly so that it does work.
    • Try to anticipate needs. Are rushes seasonal? Are there extra activities associated with certain times of the day, week, month, or quarter? Can you prepare in advance? Look ahead and do not be afraid of the unknown. A small amount of future stability can be self-generated by planning and being ready for those things over which you do have some control.
    • Try to anticipate things you will need to know. Can you learn a new skill ahead of time? Can you apply a skill you already have in a new way? Watch the trends around you; keep up-to-date by reading and continuous learning. Proactive people are successful because they are immersed in unfolding history as well as understanding the lessons of the past.
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    Look for ways to automate routine tasks. Computers can manipulate data in all sorts of ways. Even having a template or a standard plan of action can save time. If you work in a team context, delegation is also a form of automation, in that knowing the best person to do a task will automatically result in its being done to the best level possible, removing it from the pile of "to-do's". Thus, have in place a system that automatically moves tasks to those best suited to them.
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    Learn Something just for the Sake of Learning something Take up an interest. Develop a passion.


  • Although time spent specifically planning or organizing is not time spent on a necessary task, a little planning can save a lot of time down the road. Do not overlook it with the excuse that it is wasted time; you will regret not having a plan to follow later and will truly waste time going back over old ground.
  • The opposite of proactive is reactive. If you find yourself "fighting fires", or reacting to problems only after they crop up, take a good look at what is wrong!


  • It is only possible to anticipate so much, so be ready to react, too, if something unexpected comes up. Flexibility is a key positive trait of a proactive person. Being proactive means anticipating and preparing for all possible outcomes, not controlling your future.
  • Don't get so caught up in planning that you fail to act (i.e. paralysis by analysis). A plan does not need to be watertight, only indicative, and motivating. You can always return to it as time goes on and add more. There is no such thing as perfection and trying to reach this at the commencement of a plan is wasted effort.

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