This past week has had me feeling frazzled. A sporadic teaching schedule with Krav Maga, working on the new Bondi gym, and changing some things with Owlsight’s website has had me feeling all over the place.
Being so far removed from my usual routine, I found my actions were predominantly reactive rather than proactive. There wasn’t much future thought or intention to the things I was doing – I was responding to situations after the fact.
I don’t like being in this state of mind.
Having a proactive mindset is also important in communicating with each other. Instead of habitually reacting to what someone is saying to me, I can choose my response with intention.
As I see it, there are three main benefits to being proactive.
- Your actions align with your goals and values.
By having an intentional mindset, you plan your actions to line up with your goals and values. That email you need to reply to when its notification pops up? Not so important compared to the lesson plans you’re currently writing up.
- You work on the most important tasks.
Reactionary tasks have a habit of instilling a sense of urgency in them that may not be present. As a result, you might end up working on something immediately that simply isn’t important. By reacting, we often end up in Quadrant 3 of Eisenhower’s Decision Matrix.
- You maintain a sense of agency.
By choosing your tasks, you maintain a sense of control or agency in your life. You choose the task – the task doesn’t choose you.
Today, I see the reactive mindset being most associated with social media. You’re sitting at your computer working, reading a book on the couch, or maybe learning a new piece of music.
Your phone vibrates, indicating a notification. What do you do? A reactive mindset has you stop whatever you’re doing straight away to check the notification. Whether you type out a response to the notification and close it out, or turn your phone back off and go back to your activity isn’t important. You’ve already responded. Your mind has been taken from the task at hand. All sense of focus is lost as you check the phone for this new notification. Now going back to the task at hand, more mental energy is required to fully immerse yourself and engage with the content, let alone get into that state of flow.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m also guilty of this. Now how can we attempt to break this reaction that compromises our ability to do deep and meaningful work?
- Turn off social media.
Figure out what’s important and disconnect what isn’t. How important is social media to you? Not at all? Really important? Do you need to be on alert for new messages right now? I’m pretty sure all smartphones nowadays have the option to disable notifications from social media networks. Turn them off so they won’t pull you away from what you’re doing. Then, if it’s important to you, you can go back later and intentionally catch up with your networks.
- Take 10 minutes to plan your day.
This can take many forms, so find something that works for you. I like to write stream of consciousness style for about 10 minutes on what I plan on doing for the day, why I want to do it, and reflect on what I’ve done over the previous few days. Other people prefer to maintain a task list which they refresh every day. Others still, like Benjamin Franklin, write out their three most important tasks for the day in determining what good they’ll do for that day. I prefer to do this in the morning when I’m fresh.
Similar to taking the time to plan your day; meditation’s main benefit here is allowing you to stop what you’re doing and just be. Being reactive is the physical equivalent of the monkey mind talked about in meditation circles. We switch from one thing to another as soon as it crosses our mind without much consideration of why we’re doing it. By regularly engaging in meditation, we can train our minds to be less reactive and achieve a greater focus.
There you go – three simple things you can do to live a more proactive life. Now, close Facebook and go do something meaningful.
Photo is of our new Krav Maga gym in Bondi Junction.