Proactive people consciously create their lives. Reactive people try to catch up. Proactive people make things happen. Reactive people wait for them to happen. Proactive people build the house. Reactive people clean up the mess. Being proactive helps you create a life of health, wellness, and wellbeing while aiding in the prevention of anxiety, overwhelm, depression, and nearly all other mental or physical diseases processes. As we move forward into the fall, I thought it might be best to offer a simple stress fighting strategy for proactivity so you can meet life head on.
First, let’s define proactive.
Proactive is defined as: creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.
This is foundational because, I believe our health, happiness and overall satisfaction with life and work is directly proportional to how proactive we are.
When I think of being proactive I think of 3 to P’s -Prioritize, Preplan and Practice. With a small adjustment in your approach you can better prepare for stressful events, people and situations using the 3 P’s.
Before you head out the door, start your day proactively by prioritizing your to-do’s, making time for your passions and aligning the work ahead with your purpose. Whether you write in a hand held planner or use an app on your phone, fill in your calendar each morning or, better yet, the night before, so you can be intentional with your time each day. Ask yourself what are the top 3-5 most important things I must get done tomorrow? These are the absolute must do’s you have to do the next day. Through this practice you can learn to prioritize your life and remove all of the other distractions.
I rank each priority task, Critical/Proactive, Critical/Reactive, Noncritical/Proactive, or Noncritical/Reactive, and do them in this order. Every functioning adult should have a priority list, or they’ll spend their whole day on their heels reacting to the demands of other people, circumstances and situations. Whether you use this framework or not, make a list of prioritized to-do’s.
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After organizing all of my to-do’s in this framework, I fill in each task on my daily planner. This simple habit provides an unbelievable amount of clarity and focus in my day. It puts me back in control and maximizes my time and efficiency so I can manage the demands of work, graduate school and near continuous travel for the past 18 months. It’s truly life changing for the busy working professional, traveler, parent or student.
Start the day with your priority tasks and proactive work (writing, creating, making, building) and save the reactive stuff (responding, helping, listening, watching) until the end of the day. Either way, write it down or it won’t get done. Add this all to your calendar in designated time blocks. It’ll take practice and discipline to stick to it, but will pay off for a lifetime once you build the habit.
Although every day is different, depending on meetings, calls and other obligations, I do my best to stick to my schedule and manage the flow. The more I stick to it, the more I get done and the easier I sleep at night. In Evernote, it’s so easy to make changes and adjustments on the fly. I’m even able to hyperlink my Zoom meetings and important websites right into the calendar. One click and I’m there.
My mission is no dead time, and this process has worked wonders for my productivity, efficiency and focus.
Below is a sample calendar of what someone’s day could look like, but, for this to work, you’ll have to make it your own.
|Date: Friday – 11/15/19|
|Time of Day||To- Do:||Intentions, Ideas and Insights|
|5:00 AM||[ ] WAKE UP!|
[ ] Movement – Tabata & Stretch
[ ] Mindset – Gratitude & Meditation
[ ] Motivation – Journal, Preplan, Envision the Perfect Day
|6:00 AM||[ ] Exercise or personal proactive work|
[ ] Exercise or personal proactive work
|7:00 AM||[ ] Prep for day|
[ ] Kids to school or commute to work
|8:00 AM||[ ] Critical/Proactive –|
[ ] Write, Create, Build, etc.
|Reply to Anna’s email, no others until the end of day.|
|9:00 AM||[ ] Meeting or important call|
[ ] Meeting or important call
|10:00 AM||[ ] Critical/Proactive – |
[ ] Write, Create, Build, etc.
|“5 breaths” for presence and smoother transition between projects and calls.|
|11:00 AM||[ ] Critical/Reactive – |
[ ] Read, Watch, Call, etc.
|12:00 PM||[ ] Meal |
[ ] Movement and reset
|[ ] Touch base – How are you feeling right now?|
|1:00 PM||[ ] Meeting|
[ ] Meeting
|Remember, Jakes birthday was last week and ask about his trip to Jamaica.|
|2:00 PM||[ ] Critical/Reactive – |
[ ] Follow Ups, and Priority emails.
|3:00 PM||[ ] Noncritical/Proactive – |
[ ] Scheduling, Preplanning, etc.
|3 things you’re grateful for:|
|4:00 PM||[ ] Noncritical/Proactive – Watching, Replying, etc. |
[ ] Noncritical/Reactive – Close out any emails or missed to-do’s, etc.
|5:00 PM||[ ] Pick up kids|
[ ] Drive home
|6:00 PM||[ ] Prep Dinner |
[ ] Eat Dinner
|Remember to ask Jess about her day and about her upcoming meeting.|
|7:00 PM||[ ] Personal proactive work |
[ ] Personal proactive work
|8:00 PM||[ ] Daily Reflect and Review |
[ ] Preplan for tomorrow
|9:00 PM||[ ] Stretch|
[ ] Read, Journal, Gratitude
|10:00 PM||[ ]Sleep|
Notice that the schedule has spots designated for workouts, meals, priority work and personal and professional time.
To stay positive, proactive and engaged throughout the day, add reminders and notes that redirect your focus. Every person’s schedule is different, but the more structure you add on the front end, the more focus, clarity and control you’ll have throughout the day. Be sure to adapt your approach along the way.
If there are habits I’m experimenting with, they’re added to the planner with a checkbox as well. Feel free to do the same, and really make this your own. When I’m at my best, I’ve set an intention and envisioned the best possible outcome for each interaction or call. To master a transition between tasks, I close my eyes and take 5 deep breaths. I’ve found that when I slow down, I work faster. This practice allows me to slow down so I am much more intentional about how I spend my time and energy.
Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.
I schedule in my morning routine and my nightly reflect and review and don’t consider the day done until I have filled out the next day’s calendar. It’s become a part of who I am and there is no turning back. I hope it offers the same clarity and control of your schedule and life as well.
Note: Emails are generally NOT a priority, unless they are critical to a project or you’re waiting to hear back from an important client. If no emails are critical to your life on a given day, do not waste time clearing out your inbox or getting sucked into advertisements and other distractions. Most certainly do not start off your day in a noncritical, reactive state. When it comes to replying and responding, save them for the end of the day or schedule a time right after a Critical/Proactive or Critical/Reactive work block, right before a break.
After you’ve prioritized and pre-planned your day so you know where you will be, what you will be doing, who you will be doing it with and when, you can do a mental rehearsal and review any especially challenging tasks, people or situations. This is where you practice. I call it Envisioning the Perfect Day. Practice going through the motions so that your body and mind knows what to do once they come face to face with the upcoming task, person or stressor.
- Are you trying, meeting, or starting someone or something new? Mentally rehearse going through the motions so you are ready to go at game time.
- Do you have a review, consult or other uncomfortable conversation? Practice visualizing yourself showing up present, engaged and confident.
- Do you have an upcoming speech, presentation, or interview? Practice, practice, practice.
Our ability to move forward through life consciously creating and managing it as we go, allows for a deep sense of ease as we flow throughout each day.
Put the work in on the front end, prioritizing, preplanning and practicing, so you’ll be ready to respond to anything with grace and ease. Each night before bed, prepare yourself for the next day. Set the tomorrow you up for success by cleaning up any loose ends. Pack your bags and your lunch. Pick out your outfit and clean up your room.
Just like meal prep on Sunday’s sets you up for a week of healthy living, mental prep the night before sets you up for mindful living the next day. There’s never enough time, so do what you need to do before it needs to be done.
Give this practice a go and see what it does to help you effectively manage your time, energy and stress throughout the day.
If you’re ready to learn the Stress Fighting Strategy for Proactivity and how that applies to your own life, let’s chat. I’ve felt the stress of burnout and overwhelm and know what it’s like to spend all day busy but get nothing accomplished. With a little proactivity on your part, that will no longer be the case. I love nothing more than helping people remove the stress and overwhelm from there life so they can actually take action towards their dreams. Stress is the biggest killer of productivity and progress; that’s why it’s so important that we learn how to manage it in the everyday chaos of life!