Want to be More Proactive? Avoid These 3 Common Enemies

Most administrative professionals understand that being proactive is an absolute must. As an assistant, your executive looks to you to anticipate needs and do everything in your power today to make sure tomorrow is successful.

That’s what being proactive is all about.

But it’s not as easy as it sounds! Those who have tried to enhance their proactivity prowess know how tough it can be. All too often, we’re so consumed by today that we don’t have the time (or energy) to think about tomorrow. When that happens, we end up stuck in reactivity—focusing on what’s right in front of us instead of planning and preparing for the future.

And that spells disaster.

If you want to enhance your ability to be proactive, you need to avoid the three biggest enemies, described below.

Enemy #1: Procrastination

Procrastination forces you into reactivity. When you procrastinate, you take things that should be done today and push them off till tomorrow. Procrastination puts you on your heels—instead of staying ahead of things, you’re scrambling to catch up.

This is the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t thoughtfully prioritize. After all, you can’t do everything on your task list right this minute. Some things should rightfully be postponed. But that’s not the same as procrastination.

Procrastination is when you avoid doing what you should do when you should do it because you’d just rather not deal with it today. That’s setting yourself—and others—up for problems in the future.

Instead of procrastinating, prioritize with tomorrow in mind. What can you do now to set yourself up for success in the future?

Enemy #2: Impulsivity

In the workplace, it’s easy to make snap decisions in the heat of the moment. Then, after the moment has passed, it’s common to look back and think, “Shoot! I wish I had thought things through a bit more!”
Proactive people are very deliberate in their actions. They don’t act spontaneously based on emotion or on present circumstances. Instead, they pause and think through the consequences of their actions. They look for the ripple effects of their decisions. They consider their options and make smart choices based on long-term goals, not short-term desires.

If you want to be more proactive, practice being intentional. Don’t give in to impulse.

Enemy #3: Lack of Creativity

Finally, the third enemy is lack of creativity. Too many people look at the workplace with a very static perspective. They fail to see opportunity and possibility. All they see is what’s obvious—the problems, the many frustrations, and the immediate demands on their plate.

But proactive people use their imagination to see solutions. When something isn’t working, they find new and innovative ways to improve it. They don’t continue to deal with the same old issues. They figure out how to solve them once and for all.

The ability to be proactive is rare, even amongst the most experienced professionals. It’s a skillset that takes time to develop. And to do so effectively, you can’t fall into the traps of these common enemies.

Being proactive is also the single most important trait to differentiate yourself as an assistant. Master this and you’ll truly become an indispensable asset for your executive.

Proactive_Professional_BookIf you’re interested in learning more about how to be proactive, grab The Proactive Professional: How to Stop Playing Catch Up & Start Getting Ahead by Chrissy Scivicque.

Chrissy Scivicque is a career coach and corporate trainer who believes that work can be a nourishing, enriching part of the life experience. Her website,, is devoted to that mission. You’re invited to join the FREE Eat Your Career Resource Library where you’ll gain immediate access to dozens of tools to advance your professional skills and achieve career fulfillment.

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60 thoughts on “Want to be More Proactive? Avoid These 3 Common Enemies”

  1. Striving to be proactive is a great exercise in self-growth and self-control all at once! I am a fact-gatherer… I will take a step back and see what is really going on before making a decision about something. Sometimes it seems that I am avoiding a decision, but what I am avoiding is a reaction. There have been times in the past when that has served me, and my team, well when things come to light. Thanks for the great article!

  2. Proactive vs. Impulsive I work on this daily.
    Clearly thought out responses and actions usually make for better outcomes.
    Avoid RE-action and focus on Action.

    I just signed up for the Eat Your Career! I am amazed at the amount of free resources available!
    Between Joan and Chrissy, how can anyone not succeed !
    Thank you for all you do.

  3. One of the traits of effective people is good problem-solving skills. We are all going to run into problems. It’s how we handle them that makes us effective. Focusing on things that are out of our control is a waste of time. We need to focus on what we can control to come up with solutions.

  4. I needed to read and visualize theses three things today! Simple steps kep me focused. Thanks for passing on quick ueseful tips!

  5. I have always thought of myself as being a proactive person so I can’t wait to buy “The Proactive Professional” to see if I am really as proactive as I believe and if there are areas I need to work on. I’m sure there are areas for me to work on!

  6. dezondria johnson

    Here is what I recently heard someone say about procrastination: “If I asked you to meet me here tomorrow at 2:00 and I’ll give you 3 million dollars, where would you be? You’d be right here at 2:00, so there is no procrastination it’s just not important to you. When it’s important to us, we show up.”

  7. I am also a procrastinator and it usually pertains to obstacles or problems. In the words of David Allen: You don’t have problems, you have projects. Just decide what is the next action.

  8. Thanks for the advice, Chrissy! I’ve been focusing more on being proactive. It really is a conscious decision.

  9. I agree that procrastination can sometimes be a problem. I am a confessed procrastinator; I don’t like doing some tasks and sometimes put them off. I also agree with the remark earlier that sometimes it’s good to procrastinate; follow your instincts about each issue that comes up. If you do have a task that you just don’t want to handle, try looking at it as a challenge. It’s usually easier and quicker to grab the bull by the horns and “Get Her Done” than to have to clean up an issue. Think about the issue or problem for a few minutes, plan and ask yourself:
    • What outcome do I want/need?
    • How can I achieve that outcome?
    • What information do I need to compile?
    • Will a phone call be better than an e-mail?
    • Will an e-mail be better than a phone call?
    • What am I going to say to get results?
    • Can I break down the task into smaller pieces which will be less overwhelming?
    Whatever the task, look at it as a challenge and know that you can succeed!

  10. I believe being creative helps you look at things differently than your neighbor and potentially change the ‘in the box’ processes!

  11. Procrastination is something that I struggle with. But I do agree, being proactive does make everything more efficient. I also have been reading Chrissy’s book. It’s a great book. I’m constantly on the lookout for ways on bringing my expertise up to the next level. Thanks for the post!

  12. Perfect timing. I have a tendency to be reactive and have to send out a revision. I need to step back and re-think before I move ahead. Too many things going on in the head that need to be done. Thanks for the reminder.

  13. Form my experience, at times it is best to wait then to react immediately. Ask your executive if you should move forward. At times, things change and you need to wait to see if anything has changed. It shows that you are paying attention to the details and are ready to react once you have their approval.

  14. Procrastination is my biggest enemy! Both at home and in the workplace. I know that I should get it done and over with, but sometimes the task is too overwhelming.

  15. Very hard with my supervisor to be proactive. She is constantly all over the place, meaning she bounces from one take to another. She doesn’t believe in communicating her tasks to me and doesn’t really ask for mine. I’ve recently decided, to try and be more proactive instead of just sitting at my desk doing what needs to be accomplished for the day.

  16. I think I’m fairly proactive in my job and more often than not, I try not to procrastinate – even the mundane tasks – and plan ahead. I even place future reminders in my Outlook calendar. Related to “lack of creativity,” in my current role, I always look for ways to streamline and improve processes. Just because something’s been done a certain way for x amount of time, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. There is always room for improvement or tweaking processes.

  17. With today’s busier office environments and on-demand electronics, it is easy to be distracted by all these enemies mentioned. We must learn to discipline ourselves to focus.

    1. Thanks, Jeana. I completely agree with the need to discipline ourselves, especially in the day of multiple electronic devices and more productivity apps than can possible be tried in a lifetime (not to mention games!). I’m convinced that the concept of multitasking is a lie – we need to focus and reduce the distractions. Not just in our office lives, but also in our home lives.

  18. Rhonda M. Strong

    I can highly recommend Chrissy’s new book, The Proactive Professional. I purchased it as soon as it was released and have recommended it to others.

  19. Brenda Michels

    It is easier to do something right away than to procrastinate. Gets it off your plate and makes the rest of your day go much more smoothly! Great read!

  20. I believe all of us have done 1-3 but we must strive for excellence and work the opposite of this. One way is to keep each other accountable and motivate one another. Thanks for the information. I appreciate it.

  21. This is awesome – Lack of Creativity is my monster. It’s just not “me”… but I know it can be. This will be my goal for the month of April – 21 days makes a habit right? 😉

    Thank you again for a great blog!

  22. I try to be proactive. Putting it off is not a good idea. Especially when I know it will overwhelm me when it is time to have it ready. Good article. Thanks, Joan.

  23. Thank you for the blog post. I have to admit procrastination is my biggest hurdle, especially with things I am not very good at or don’t enjoy as much as other things.

  24. Great read. Procrastination falls in everyday life and situations. Being proactive in your job can push you to be more proactive in your everyday life.

  25. In a nutshell, being proactive is the same thing as being reactive. The only difference is: you do the reacting ahead of time.

  26. Lynnette Taylor

    The author is right on! Procrastinating is an awful anchor keeping us from being productive and feels like you have a dark cloud over your head.

  27. I disagree that procrastination is always a bad thing, you just have to pick what you procrastinate upon. I have often saved myself a lot of work by putting off sending out something and then having it changed or added to the material. You need to learn to listen to that little voice and decide if it’s truly a wait for a good reason or just deliberate delay.

  28. Christine Garcia

    Three great tips on being proactive! I continue to work on taming my procrastination demon. I have Chrissy’s book in my Kindle library and refer to it often!

  29. I appreciate this post. It reminds of the task that stays on my list that I just need to bite the bullet and get it done. It happens at home too, I just need to apply these principles to keep the home office in the same manner as I do, my one at work.

  30. Thank you!!! Very informative. Let’s get on our way to becoming more PRO-Active by kicking procrastination out of the way. Have a good day everyone.

  31. Being proactive is key. When I have large time consuming projects, I try to do a little everyday and set mini achievement goals each week. I had a project that actually isn’t due until mid April, but with spring break last week, I devoted most of my days to completing it, while it was a little less hectic at work. It doesn’t always work that way, but if I can stay ahead of the game, I personally feel better.

  32. Barbara Corley

    I recently discovered Chrissy Scivicque thanks to Office Dynamics and I love her!
    It’s true! Being proactive is a must these days and not just at work. Life just seems to get busier to it’s all the more important to stay ahead of the curve. Great advice!

  33. I am good at being proactive in some areas. Other times one of the above enemies keep me from being proactive. Working on it.

  34. I have been learning to be more proactive and plan ahead to get more things completed before the deadline instead of having to finish everything at the last minute. Thank you for your post!

  35. So true! As an Executive Assistant to a busy CEO I must juggle priorities daily. Concerning procrastination, I’m no stranger. Important work or projects that require my full attention is often difficult to make time for with all of the other tasks and responsibilities on my plate. I have found that scheduling purposeful time in my calendar to put my focus to that work allows me to make progress and see things through. If I don’t schedule for it, it tends to get shifted around on my priority list until I absolutely must stop what I am doing and address it, causing bottlenecks and headaches. Hello impulsivity! It’s much more efficient to purposely schedule the the time and stick to it. As to being proactive, that’s a must in my work too! I have to monitor my executive’s calendar daily, always looking ahead so that important due dates, meetings, and events are known and prepared for in advance. There’s no way I could achieve any amount of success without having a proactive mindset.

  36. Great article, thanks Chrissy!! I’ve found in my position the more proactive I can be the smoother things run in my office.

  37. I have “The Proactive Professional” and will put on my April must-read list. I am in a continuing struggle with playing catch up and am ready to break the cycle.

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