The Importance of Being Proactive

How many times have you missed a deadline simply because you were ‘busy’?

That’s procrastination.

Ever felt like you had too much to do, so you were unable to complete a task?

That’s prioritization.

When we don’t meet a deadline, we have a bad habit of making excuses. We put the blame on others, or we tell ourselves that we are too busy. Most of us procrastinate, or have procrastinated one time or another, and we usually lack experience with effective prioritization because we simply never learnt the skill growing up.

We simply aren’t trained to be proactive, and actively seek opportunities. We don’t push our boundaries, and we don’t try to constantly improve ourselves. In essence, we lack that inner motivation.

All of these problems stem from one major issue: most people don’t train their PROACTIVE mindset.

Training our minds to not be passive seems as easy as switching on a light. However, because of the influence of people around us, and the fact that there aren’t too many good role-models, it’s fair to say that there are several obstacles holding us back from actually being proactive.

A lot of us have probably experienced a time when we had several projects due within a short timeframe. Perhaps a few were due on the same day. You spent all night trying to finish one assignment, only to suffer the consequences of not finishing another project, which was much more valuable.

This means that you were unable to prioritize our various activities in order to minimize the consequences. If you had prioritized working on a project that was more urgent and that held a greater value, you would have minimized the consequences of not finishing an assignment.

It is important to realize that it isn’t always going to be possible to finish everything, due to inevitable time constraints. We can, however, pick our battles wisely, to still produce quality work with a greater chance of success.

This is another big issue that most people struggle with it. By nature, we rarely do things as soon as we get them. We tend to wait for a few days before actually working on the project, and in schools, this is even worse. Of course, in an office setting there is a limit to how much you could possibly procrastinate due to the palpable consequences, but in school, students tend to leave things until the last day, then scramble for several hours straight to finish their assignments.

This is a TERRIBLE idea.

Procrastination completely goes against the mindset of being on-the-ball, and because we do this from an early age, it is very difficult to actually change our habits and start working on projects early.

Another problem with this is that we always tend to make excuses. We tell ourselves that we were busy, or that we will work on it tomorrow, but we rarely keep our promises to ourselves. In the end, though, the only person you end up harming us yourself.

Most people who procrastinate end up damaging their own mental health, by stressing out and panicking at the last minute and pulling all-nighters to finish incomplete work right before the deadline. The work, albeit all of the struggles, ends up being substandard quality, or at least not as good as it could have been had the person not procrastinated.

This leads into time management, a skill that is important for several reasons.

This is sort of like an overarching theme with the first 2 points. Overall, most people simply don’t know how to manage their time, so even if they do want to complete something early, or by a specific date, they end up distributing their time in effectively and are unable to reach those goals.

Countless times we underestimate how much time we need for a certain activity, so even if we have time-boxed our schedules perfectly, our schedules get messed up and we rarely keep any buffer time as a safety net in case this happens. Inevitably this leads to us missing deadlines, or at the very least, not being able to achieve the goals we had in mind.

Most of us have a very reactive, or passive mindset. We are assigned some specific role or job, given certain projects, and we scramble to meet them. Often, we aren’t curious about much, we don’t step out of our comfort zones, we don’t actively seek ways to help out, and we don’t try to push ourselves.

How this might play out in an office setting is having an employee who comes to office, sits at their desk, and only does the bare minimum of what is expected of them. This person never engages in any office culture-building events, never seeks opportunities for a pay-raise or a promotion, and only talks to people within the sector they are working for. They have never talked face to face with any company executive, and in another 5 years, they see themselves working for the same role, or the role directly above.

This is EXTREMELY passive.

Being passive means we never seek novel opportunities and we don’t seek ways to improve ourselves.

Having the right mindset can be a game-changer. Proactive people are the ones who are become leaders, project managers, and management trainees. They are organized, punctual and productive, gaining the respect of their managers and coworkers.

Now that we know what prevents us from adopting this mindset, let’s focus on trying to develop better habits to get rid of these obstacles!

  • Use a prioritization matrix to organize which activities are the most important and most urgent down to the least important and least urgent. This can help focus your time more effectively onto more valuable tasks!
  • Hold yourself accountable. Send daily updates and fill out weekly trackers, so that you can measure your progress and monitor how you manage your activities, as well as your work efficiency!
  • Time-box your schedules realistically, and keep some buffer time in case a task takes longer than expected or something comes up. Plan ahead for the next day if possible, to avoid adverse situations!
  • Actively seek out opportunities to learn and to improve. Look for feedback, and keep goals that involve you stepping out of your comfort zone every day, or week, according to your preference

By following these action items, you’re on your way to becoming a respected, punctual, and proactive person! 💪

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