Have you ever made it to the end of the day, looked back and wondered where the day went? You know you were busy but what were you busy with actually?
That’s what happens when we work in a reactive mode, simply responding to the wants and needs of everyone else. When we keep reacting passively to the demand from others, we get out of balance and will never get our most important things done.
If you want to get things done, you have to be intentionally PROACTIVE.
Reactive vs Proactive
The common definition is that a proactive task is a task that you want to do, and reactive task is a task that someone else wants you to do. However, this definition is not very useful.
Better definition would be: Proactive task is a task that is aligned with your long term-goals that has a strong long-term benefit, and reactive task is a task that brings very little long-term benefit. Reactive tasks are usually not results of planning, they are more likely to appear in the heat of the moment.
Reactive tasks make you living, proactive tasks make you successful.
Reactive and proactive tasks usually have these common characteristics. Study this comparison table carefully to fully understand and realise the differences:
Vast majority of urgent and not important tasks are reactive, and vast majority of important and not urgent tasks are proactive.
Another way to put it: Reactive tasks are usually not important, and proactive tasks are very important, especially in the long run.
The Ideal Ratio of Reactive Tasks vs Proactive Tasks
Perhaps that spending time strictly on proactive tasks is the holy grail of personal achievement, but it is not attainable for the most of us.
However, spending 80% time on proactive tasks and just 20% of time on reactive tasks is a realistic goal that everyone can achieve. Once you achieve this balance, your life will be forever different – in the best possible way.
Why? Because you will be moving in the right direction, every day, every week, every month, every year, building your better life step by step. The results will stick. Every day will be better than the last one. Sure, there will be some up and downs, but the general trend will be unquestionable. Sky is the limit. But what is most important: You will slowly become your own boss.
The Link Between Proactive Tasks and Procrastination
Whenever you are doing reactive tasks instead of proactive tasks, you are procrastinating.
You see, what procrastination does is this: It makes you do reactive tasks instead of proactive tasks, because they are easier, safer, and with immediate benefits. For all I know, you could add tasks like “Play PC games” to your to-do list together with other reactive tasks and complete them with great satisfaction and feeling of productivity. That’s how it works.
Procrastination is the one-eyed leader of your brain and body. It’s the last thing you need – what you really need is a commander in a plane that will allow you to see the broader context.
Simple Exercise To Raise Your Awareness
1. Go through your to-do lists and count all reactive tasks and all proactive tasks. (To get more accurate result, do NOT count everyday tasks that must be done regardless of other circumstances. Don’t count tasks like “feed the baby”, “buy groceries”, “get the velociraptor out of my bedroom” etc).
2. Now is the time to do the math and calculate the ratio:
- Take the total number of reactive + proactive tasks (eg. 43 reactive and 15 proactive is 58 in total)
- Divide it by 100 (you get 0,58 in this example)
- Now divide the number of your reactive tasks by that number (eg. 43 / 0,58 = 74%)
- Divide the number of your proactive tasks too (eg. 15 / 0,58 = 26%)
We just calculated that we are spending 74% of our time on reactive tasks and only 26% of our time on proactive tasks in our example. That’s not very good!
How To Spend More Time On Proactive Tasks
So you would like to spend more time on proactive tasks? Good! It’s not a rocket science. Here are some tips:
- Can you eliminate some of the reactive tasks? Create new to-do list called “Never To-Do” and just move them there
- Can you create more proactive tasks? Ideally some tasks that you are passionate about. If you can come up with some tasks that create a burning desire inside you, you are on the right path.
- Learn to say “No.” Being assertive is crucial. When someone delegates you a task that you don’t want to do, just say it outright. You have more important things to do.
- Not all tasks from others are reactive – even tasks from others can be proactive, especially when they are aligned with your long-term goals. When you share your goals with your boss or business partner, proactive tasks come naturally. But, if you want something completely different than your boss, perhaps it’s the time to look for a new boss.
This article originally appeared in Dextronet.
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