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We live in a reactive world. We feel compelled to check and respond to digital tools at a moment’s notice. A few minutes here and a few there checking email, responding to Slack messages, and replying to Facebook posts add up to a significant amount of time over the course of a day, week, and month. This precious time could be spent writing a book, training for a race, or being with your kids.

There’s a better way: live proactively. It means starting each day with purpose by taking control of what you do and when you do it. Embrace the proactive habits below and you’ll be amazed at what you accomplish.

1. Know Where Your Time Goes

It’s critical to start every day with a plan that details what you’re going to do and when. Take a few minutes each evening to create a schedule for the day ahead, hour-by-hour. Note your current commitments, like “meeting from 12pm to 1pm.” Then, give yourself large chunks of time to complete your priorities for the day.  

On Monday evening you plan your day for Tuesday, which could look something like this:

6am – 8am: Write draft of article

8am – 9am: Commute to work

9am – 11am: Write report

11am – 12pm: Attend meeting

You get the idea. Without a plan, it’s too easy to spend your days reacting to others: agreeing to take on a project or deciding to attend a last-minute meeting. This is a sure-fire way to unnecessarily drag out your days, leaving you with little time for anything else.

Planning your day takes a little upfront effort, but the results pay dividends in return. You’ll get a lot done in less time.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

2. Determine When You’re Available to Communicate

You can’t be a hermit all day, every day. You’ll have to respond to people either personally or digitally at some point. That’s why you should determine in advance when you’re available to others to answer questions and discuss issues with friends and colleagues. Experiment and find a block of time that works for you, and include it in your daily schedule.

This proactive approach gives you a block of time to handle communication, instead of here and there throughout the day—a practice that can eat away at your day. Plus, using a block of time to handle correspondence sets the expectation for others: they can’t interrupt and pepper you all day long with questions.

3. Focus, Focus, Focus

Now that you’ve got a plan in place, it’s time to hone in on the details: do one task at a time. This way of working is at odds with the rest of the world, since it’s popular today to multitask. It’s common to see employees working on one monitor and responding to Slack messages on another. But there’s a problem with multitasking: it doesn’t work.

When we “multitask,” we’re not really doing multiple things at once. Rather, we’re doing “individual actions in rapid succession,” as pointed out by the Cleveland Clinic. We are in fact “mono-taskers.”

Eliminating digital distractions helps you to focus completely on the task at hand. Put your smartphone on silent and move it out of sight so you’re not tempted to check it while working. Close your email and Slack tabs. In other words, proactively eliminate digital and physical clutter, and you’ll find you get more quality work done when you focus and do things one at a time.

“What I’ve learned in these 11 years is you just got to stay focused and believe in yourself and trust your own ability and judgment.” – Mark Cuban

Above all, living proactively is a shift in mindset. Instead of saying “let’s see what blows up at the office today” and reacting to every whim, begin the day with purpose and be proactive with your time and attention—both are limited.

How do you make sure you use your time wisely? Let us know by commenting below!

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