Setting Priorities Effectively - Proactive vs. Reactive Tasks
When Stephen Covey identified two types of tasks in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he called them proactive and reactive tasks. He stressed that the difference between these types of tasks is crucial to how we set priorities and in order to run a business or organization smoothly, you need a mix of proactive and reactive tasks in your daily list of things to do. Here are the descriptions of those tasks:
Proactive tasks are those that relate to the big picture. These are things that don't bring immediate results but rather long-term benefits, such as seeking out business opportunities, offering to help a colleague, updating your website, or posting content for backlinks. These are tasks you do regardless of any outside circumstances or pressures.
Reactive tasks are regular or routine tasks that need to be done. They're necessary for the smooth running of your business. They may be things you do for clients or customers. They don't bring long-term results, but they do get the routine work done.
To put it another way, proactive tasks are those you want to do. Reactive tasks are those that other people want you to do, or that your business requires you to do. Reactive tasks come from outside of you.
It’s important because
The reason you need to consider proactive vs. reactive tasks is that both are essential. You need the long-term benefits proactive tasks bring as well as the reactive tasks' daily running of your operations. But when we get busy, the proactive tasks often get forgotten, and then their long-term benefits disappear.
Unlike reactive tasks, there are no negative consequences to not completing proactive tasks (at least not now). If you don't seek out any new business opportunities this week, you're not going to have an angry client or any other immediate problems as a result. Proactive tasks are easy to procrastinate because they don't feel urgent. They also require more critical thinking, which may make them challenging.
Getting It All Done
When we make prioritized lists, we often list items based on urgency or negative consequences. Tasks that are urgent or that will cause negative consequences if not done usually go at the top. But since proactive tasks don't fit this category, they often get forgotten.
It’s so important to understand which of your priorities and tasks are proactive and which are reactive, and to make sure the proactive tasks are addressed in your daily to-do lists. No matter how urgent certain tasks are, make sure that you devote some time every day to things that bring you long-term results.