Proactivity is about accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative.
As a strategy for ‘doing more with less’ proactivity is related to concepts such as prevention, planning and care. In fact prevention and care are types of proactivity and planning, in other words ‘thinking’ should come before all activity.
By anticipating consequences and acting to take advantage of them – or eliminate them if they are bad – you will be able to do more with less. Proactivity is managing a situation by causing something to happen rather than waiting to respond to something after it happens. In this sense it is the opposite of procrastination. Procrastination necessitates reactivity, which is usually wasteful.
Proactive behaviour has three key features:
- It is anticipatory – acting in advance of a future situation, rather than reacting to the situation once it has happened.
- It is change-oriented – being proactive means being positive and causing something to happen, rather than just adapting to a situation or waiting for something to happen.
- It is self-initiated – a person acts on initiative alone.
Proactivity is certainly not just activity for the sake of it – or ‘tail-chasing’ – which is also wasteful. It implies activity that is focussed on a goal. It is proactive to use your initiative and find solutions to problems before the problems get big. For example, in business, it is proactive to make a call to a client who has not given you much work recently rather than wait to hear that they are in trouble or they are being courted by another supplier. It is much easier to keep a client than it is to find a new client and often all it takes is to stay in contact.
At home you can be proactive by planting trees or building a shade rather than trying to cool the house with air-conditioning. It is proactive to harvest rainwater from your roof and to grow your own vegetables. Learning useful skills and finding better ways to do things are also ways of being proactive. Caring for things and maintaining them in good condition are proactive ways to make them last longer and look and feel better with time.