This article will go over, in detail, 5 actionable tips on how to become more proactive at work. Why? Because being proactive is a desirable trait to have in any profession. It makes you more employable, more promotable, and will make you look better in the eyes of your peers, subordinates, and superiors.
Not only this but when you start to see yourself becoming more proactive at work. You will notice certain changes happening within yourself as well. Your self-confidence will increase, your happiness will increase, and you will find yourself more satisfied at work!
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines proactive as “acting in anticipation of future problems, needs or changes.” Further defined, it is “controlling a situation by making things happen or by preparing for possible future problems.”
Simply put, this means anticipating what may happen within your professional life, planning ahead. So you are able to solve these problems or stop them from happening, and acting ahead instead of simply reacting to circumstances.
1. Manage your Emails Correctly
Email is one of the biggest time-suckers out there, and it hinders both proactivity and productivity when used incorrectly. The main reasoning for this is due to the fact that the majority of people will have emails flying into your inbox at all points in the day, drawing your attention away from the tasks you are meant to be focussing on. Not only is this a huge waste of time, but it is also one of the biggest problems to solve when we talk about anticipating problems.
One of the best ways you can solve this issue and manage your email well is to set dedicated response times. For example, my working day runs from 7 am in the morning to 4 pm late afternoon. Of course, these hours differ depending on how busy I am. I check my emails 3 times throughout the day, in half an hour time slots. These time slots allow me to read, archive, and reply to all relevant emails and then get straight back to my tasks at hand.
I check my emails from 7:30am to 8:00am, 11:30am to 12:00pm and finally from 3:30pm to 4:00pm. During these times, I will respond to email exclusively and focus on no other task. At the same time, I will focus on all my other tasks during the rest of the day and not look at my emails unless it is within these times.
The main thing here to ensure you remain proactive is to ensure people are aware of your response times. You can do this by setting up an auto-responder. This will let people know that you won’t be checking your email until your next scheduled slot. And if the request is urgent or incredibly time-sensitive, you can be contacted via the office or your mobile phone.
2. Prioritising Tasks Properly
When you read other blog posts about becoming more proactive at work, one of the things you will always see mentioned is setting up a to-do list every single day. Whilst this is a great tip, it is very overused. I also think that you can dive into a little more detail when you talk about work lists for the day, so let’s do that right now.
When you sit down at your desk first thing in the morning, the best thing to do is spend half an hour getting your to-do list in order. We know that. But the crucial element is you need to prioritise your tasks properly. There are two common schools of thought with this. Some people like to start with the quick and easy tasks first to build up momentum for the more difficult tasks to be focussed on later on, whereas some people like to get the longest or most difficult task sorted straight away. That process is commonly referred to as ‘eating the frog.’
My preferred option is to ‘eat the frog’ in the morning. Not only will this mean the most crucial tasks are completed early on, making you more valuable to your employers, but it also means that you have already built up a heap of momentum for the day, and the rest of the day is filled with easier tasks.
3. Learn from your Mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes; this we know… Whether you are part of the C-Suite of Executives, a middle manager, or a junior account executive just starting up. One thing is certain; you will make mistakes on a regular basis, no matter what level you are in within a company. The key here, which I will say to all of my staff, is to never make the same mistake twice.
Types of mistakes within a business include missing a deadline, forgetting to do an important task, being late to a meeting, or not having an answer during a planned telephone discussion. Tips to rectify these mistakes are as follows:
When you fall behind on your work, you have a number of different options available to you. You can work remotely from home during your ‘off-hours’ to catch up, you can come into the office earlier or leave later to give yourself extra time to get everything finished off, or you can ask for help from colleagues or renegotiate your deadlines if you really are struggling.
With forgetting important tasks, one of the best solutions is to use a notes app such as Evernote to ensure you add these tasks to your to-do list straight away. You can leave apps like these pinned in your browser and go straight to them when someone asks you to do something.
When you find that you are late more than usual, you need to take extra steps and adapt your morning routine to give yourself more time to get to these meetings. Whether this leaves leaving home earlier or using a different mode of transport to get to work. And with not having answers in planned telephone discussions, planning is crucial. Ask your superiors or peers what kind of topics are likely to be discussed; this is especially helpful if they have participated in these meetings before. You can also do your research more thoroughly and ensure you are covering all bases. It is always better to be overprepared than underprepared.
4. Building your Skill Level
One of the biggest things when it comes to being proactive at work is preparing for your future roles within a company whilst still working your current role. Let me give you an example, let’s say you are a Digital Marketing Executive within a business, but you have sights of taking the next step and becoming a marketing manager within the company.
Marketing managers have skills within them that executives do not have. They know how to manage a team, negotiate with different types of people, and they also know how to delegate as well as manage their own lists. These skills are vital. So why not work on them in your free time? Watch TED Talks, read blog posts, listen to podcasts or set up meetings with people in the same position as you to learn how they do it. That way, when you apply for the promotion, you know for sure you already have the necessary skills.
Another crucial element when it comes to upskilling yourself is to ensure you are always staying up to date with the latest technological advances within your sector. Will your company be migrating over to a new email software? Great! Learn that system, so you are the person your peers come to for help and advice. Will your company be running a free seminar on how to improve relationships with customers? Great! Sign up and take notes. The goal here is to make yourself indispensable within a company. This will cover you in a great number of scenarios. They will look more favourably on you for promotions; your job will be safer if there is a risk of redundancy, and you will be thought of as someone who can mentor new employees.
5. Follow Up, Follow Through and Follow Back
I thank everyone who taught me this tip. Although primarily used for sales and generating income for yourself or your business, it is also an incredible tip for being proactive in your day-to-day life. As mentioned in the title of this tip, it can be split into three parts.
a) Follow Up
This one is nice and simple. Haven’t heard back from your boss regarding feedback on a project? Follow up with them via phone/email or just by visiting their desk. This example can be applied to anything. Have you applied internally for a promotion and not heard anything back? Follow up with the hiring manager. The reasoning here is to ensure you are continuously at the forefront of people’s minds and that they do not forget about you. Your aim is to be the first person they think of when they picture a persistent person. Why? Because persistent people get results?
b) Follow Through
Have you said you were going to do something? Make sure it gets done. It does not matter whether you have told one of your peers you will look into some data for them, a client that you will look into pricing issues for them, or your boss that you will come into work an hour early on Monday to get a head start on the week. Whatever you make a commitment to do, make sure you do it.
This makes you invaluable to a company as employers like to see that their employees are fully committed to their roles and that when asked, they will do something. Of course, there will be certain instances where you cannot commit to what you have said due to family circumstances or new projects coming in. If this is the case, communicate as to why you won’t be able to follow through and recommend action to ensure it gets done. People will thank you for it.
c) Follow Back
This tip, when broken down, essentially means keeping open forms of communication with your employers, colleagues, subordinates, and clients. It does not matter what your relationship is with them. Whether they have hired you to fulfill a service, they haven’t hired you for whatever reason, or you were passed up for an internal promotion.
No matter your relationship with your colleagues and clients, keep in touch with them. Send them the occasional email, add their Birthdays to your calendar and send them a Birthday card. Make sure you are front of mind! That way, when a client comes to purchasing again, they will think of you. When your employer opens up applications for another promotion, they will think of you. When a colleague requires help to close a deal or anything else, they will think of you!
Not only does this make you indispensable, which we have gone through above, but it also improves your mood as well! Being relied on, for the most part, is a great feeling!