Do you ever sit down on your couch at the end of the day and wonder where did the time go? You had so many things on your to-do list that you wanted to get to but just couldn’t because you spent the day rushing from problem to problem, putting out fires instead. I think we all feel this way at times. Life can feel overwhelming sometimes, causing us to live a reactive life. But how do you flip that switch to move from living a reactive life to a proactive one? One where you aren’t spending all your time firefighting problems but spending time entrenched in the things you love to do and feel passionate about? It all starts with a change in mindset and a mission to create a plan and stick to it at all costs. Sure, that’s easier said than done but it is possible. I’ve put together a few tips to get you started and you can run with it wherever it takes you afterward, once you’ve achieved a more proactive mindset.
Set the stage for your stars to align.
It might sound a little hokey but in reality, your workspace and the relationships around you truly make a difference in whether or not you can achieve and maintain a proactive approach in any area of your life. For example, if you roll out of bed exhausted; not having time for that much-needed cup of coffee. As you come down the stairs, your kids almost wipe you out blasting through the kitchen on their way to the bus stop, leaving a huge mess you don’t have time to clean. Then, just as you sit down, one of them flies back into the room because they forgot their backpack. As they fly into the room, they spill the entire jug of milk across the kitchen table – across a stack of paperwork you left scattered here-and-there yesterday night when you called it a day, working from home. Just as you reach for a cloth to start cleaning it up, your boss calls, asking where that report you didn’t finish the night before is and if you can send it to him in the next five minutes; because he has a meeting he needs it for that starts at 9 am sharp. That clutter around you, both in literal space and relationship space with requests coming in through phone, email, and your work’s group chat all at the same time is what leads to us living a reactive life. How do you turn that around? It starts with a little planning and a better night’s sleep. Burning the midnight oil isn’t going to allow you to get more done necessarily. What will help you get more done is setting a to-do list, timing it out so the expectation is realistic for yourself; even with interruptions.
Make a list and check it twice.
Before you start your day, ideally even the night before, if you can find the time – find a quiet space, grab a pen and paper or your favourite to-do list app, and make a list of everything you want to accomplish tomorrow. Then, markdown a time allocation beside each task as to how much time it will take you to complete that task. Try not to be too efficient with these times either. If you think it will take you an hour, mark in an hour and a half. That way, when you do get interrupted, you won’t be as far behind on your day as you would have been if you booked yourself right down to the minute. Next, review that list alongside the hours of your day, making sure that the amount of time you need doesn’t exceed your timeframes. For example, if you work eight hours a day, you won’t accomplish fifteen hours of work in that time period. In fact, quite often when you write this list — and I hope you will start doing it daily so it becomes a habit — you’ll find that your expectation of the amount of work you will accomplish is far more than what you can accomplish in reality. When this happens, you need to look at your list and prioritize that work. Is it a must-do item, a need-to-do fairly soon item, or a want-to-do at some point item? Once you indicate a level of priority to each, you’ll be able to see where to cut and push over into the next day, or even delegate to make your overall to-do list achievable.
Teamwork makes the dream work.
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: Teamwork makes the dream work. You are just one person and you are human, even though you, of course, have a few superpowers of your own. Being able to delegate to your team or family members (although it will be tough in the beginning) eliminates your stress in the long run and creates more accountability on that team too. It’s important in life to create collaborative relationships whether with our spouse, our kids, or our colleagues. You need to invest time in creating a tribe of people you can rely on when the pot is about to boil over and you need help. More importantly, you need to focus on building a team that helps make the work overall, lighter. If you need one more analogy, many hands make for light work. The lighter the workload, the better focus you will have on the task at hand, the less running around you will need to do to get everything done, and the more motivation you will have to give every moment your best self. Layer, in a clear path to where you want to go, a few goals to achieve as milestones and you’ll be well on your way to achieving big things with a proactive approach. It’s time you put down the hose and stopped spending your days dealing with problems. You were meant for great things – to achieve great things. The shift starts with you. Seize the day by taking the reigns and you’ll be surprised by the success you will achieve even making tiny changes like these in your average day.
“I believe that everyone chooses how to approach life. If you’re proactive, you focus on preparing. If you’re reactive, you end up focusing on repairing.” ― John C. Maxwell