Are you being reactive or proactive at your job?

Arjun R Pillai
Mar 21, 2017 · 4 min read

During our daily jobs, after a while we will start being reactive to the environment. What do I mean by ‘reactive’? It means that your actions or daily routines are guided by external impulses. In many cases, this is either emails or slacks or phone calls. We are trying hard to react to the things at hand and in many cases, playing the catch up game.

Courtesy: Hubspot

How do you know you are being reactive?

  1. Are you totally guided by your calendar?
    This is normal for many of us (including me). We have our calendars filled from morning till evening. We add events like ‘Lunch’, ‘read’ and ‘workout’ etc to our calendars.
    if you are totally guided by your calendar, then there is a high chance that you are being reactive. You are looking at calendar to see your schedule and reacting to them as they come.
  2. Do you feel yourself to be super busy?
    Do you feel you are always occupied? Do you keep saying ‘Sorry, I’m busy’? Do you have cases where you are working the whole day and when you try to number the things you got done during the day, you struggle with it?
  3. Do you have cases where you think you are losing perspectives?
    In some cases, do you feel that you are not considering all the alternatives? Are there cases where someone will point out simple common sense thoughts to you?

These are some of the cases where you MIGHT be reactive. Being reactive sucks because of many reasons:

  1. You lose sight of big picture.
    While you are reacting to all the things every day, you only see the small jigsaws, but NOT the final large picture where you are trying to reach. You might lose your mission, vision and purpose of why you are doing what you are doing.
  2. You make bad decisions.
    You are shortsighted, so would your decisions be. While you are trying to get through the week, day or hour, your decision will be a narrowed local minima.
  3. You are not at your productive best.
    Many of the reactive folks whom I know are higher up the ladder. They are leaders. They are supposed to ‘initiate’. While being reactive, you don’t initiate much, it is mostly responding to something which comes towards you.

Take a moment now and assess yourself: Are you being Reactive or Proactive?


If you are proactive — Awesome!, you may please stop reading. If you feel you are reactive, or aren’t sure, pls keep reading:

  1. Think really deep and realise that you are reactive
    It is important to realise and accept that you are reactive. This is the first step to getting out of it.
  2. This is your moment to pause:
    If you pause, the world is NOT going to fall down. You can afford to pause and reflect. Do something to pause yourself and reset your mind for a while — meditation, or sports or driving or traveling or anything that you think can make you pause.
  3. Zoom out to ‘fit the right frame’
    I got the ‘fit the right frame’ from FullContact. It is not only important to zoom out, but also important to zoom out just enough. You shouldn’t zoom out to a level where you start questioning ‘Why am I born?’ ‘How is Universe working?’ — those are probably good questions, but not in the scope of this exercise we are doing :)
    Think about WHY you are doing what you are doing — your mission, vision and purpose. Which are the activities you are doing which are taking you closer? Which are the ones that are detractors for you? The idea is simple, start doing more of aligned activities and less of distractions.
  4. Drop the ‘You-are-not-needed’ things
    Think about all the activities you are doing. What are the activities you can delegate? The filter is — ‘Am I REALLY needed for getting this done?’. Whenever the answer is not a resounding YES, just find ways to delegate it to the right people. You should (mostly) do the things where you can put ‘yours truly’ stamp.
  5. Block calendar to add mindspace time
    This is a lot more tactical, but helps. Have you seen the ‘Goal’ feature in Google apps? If not, check it out. It allows you to block a few sessions for you to pause, zoom out and be in your own mind palace (as Sherlock calls it). The difference in goal vs feature is that Google calendar is intelligent to move around this block of time to make sure you hit the number of sessions you are trying to reach every week.

To me, I’m at my best when I’m proactive; new ideas float in, I become more rebellious (question status quo), I feel more motivated to work and I get more satisfaction. Ain’t that the point? :)


Thanks for reading, if you like it, please do recommend it. That is my motivation to keep writing. Thanks in advance :)


Arjun was the founder and CEO of Profoundis which he sold to FullContact and joined FullContact as the Head of Data Strategy. His mantra is ‘Learn as much as possible, Pay it Forward and Leave the World’. He scribbles his learnings in the hope of adding some value to others’ life and work journeys.

Arjun R Pillai

Written by

Founder & CEO at Insent.ai (https://www.insent.ai)| fmr Head of Data Strategy@FullContact | fmr Founder/CEO at Profoundis (Sold to FullContact)

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