Become 5,000 Percent More Effective with These 14 Tips on Proactivity

Be proactive …

It's habit number one in the late Stephen R. Covey's bestselling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

"Proactivity," Covey says, "is a word you won't find in most dictionaries."

It means taking the initiative and taking responsibility for your life.

Covey points out that the six other habits of highly successful people are all dependant on "the development of your proactive muscles."

He warns that if you don't act, you will "be acted on," adding that there is a 5,000-plus percent difference in how effective you will be in life.

In comparing reactive people with proactive people, Covey says:

  • Reactive people are often affected by their physical environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. For proactive people, the weather makes no difference. They produce good quality work no matter if the weather is good or bad.
  • When people treat them well, reactive people feel well. When people don't, reactive people become defensive or protective. Reactive people are driven by feelings, by conditions, by their environment. Proactive people are driven by values.

For freelance writers, being proactive is a critical component of a successful career because, unlike many 9-to-5 jobs where tasks are assigned to you, freelance writers must uncover their own income and work opportunities.

Also, in order to keep clients and maximize your income, you can’t afford to let things like the weather or circumstances in your environment dictate whether or not you decide to work one day or not.

If you feel you are more reactive than you'd like to be, I've put together 14 tips on how to be more proactive in your career and life:

  1. Anticipate future outcomes. Learn to anticipate problems and events. It could be as simple as making a plan if your home’s Internet connection goes or something more complex like identifying trends in the marketplace and how you can best position yourself to cash in on them.

    A good example of this is Mindy McHorse and her sister Megan, who noticed that companies are incorporating support for worthy causes like cancer research into their marketing. So Mindy and Megan wrote the program Copywriting for a Cause: How to Profit as a Writer and Make a Difference in the World.

  2. Anticipate your client's future needs. For example, if your client has a new product coming out, make a list of what they will need to launch it: a new landing page, a series of autoresponders, a new sales page, etc. Then approach your client with a proposal. Is your client planning to run some holiday or seasonal promotions? If so, why not approach them with some ideas now and see what they think?
  3. Don't think too much. Thinking is good, obviously, but too much thinking can sometimes get in the way of doing. For example, have you ever thought long and hard about something you're going to write instead of actually doing the writing? I know I have. Make a pledge to yourself that the next time you catch yourself doing that, you'll start writing immediately.
  4. Set goals and put together a plan to reach them. It's much easier to be proactive if you have firm goals and a blueprint to achieve them. It becomes clear where you can push yourself ahead by taking the initiative. If you're interested in learning more about setting goals, check out Cindy Cyr's article “The Only Sure Way to Make Real Progress This Year” and my article “Seven Steps to Personal Excellence and Achieving All Your Goals in Life.
  5. Think of things you will need to know down the road. A key area to be proactive in is your future education. What skills will you need to master if you're going to stay competitive down the road? Make a list, and incorporate a plan to learn them into your daily, weekly, and monthly action plans.
  6. Expand your thinking beyond "here and now." Too often, freelance writers get hung up on moving from job to job with no big picture for their career. It's important to stop and take a look at where you want to be in your career two, five, and 10 years down the road. What kind of clients do you want to be working with? What do you want your typical day to look like? Do you always want to be in the mode of exchanging labor for money, or do you want to create residual income streams for yourself? If so, how are you going to do that? If you're looking for answers, check out Nick Usborne's program Profitable Freelancing: The Definitive Guide to Earning More Money as a Freelancer.
  7. Use proactive language. Always put a positive proactive spin on the language you use to talk to yourself.

    Instead of "I can't," say, "I can." Instead of "I have to," say, "I will" or "I prefer."

    Instead of saying, "I don't have time to exercise," say, "I will always make time to exercise."

    Instead of saying, "I'm too tired," say, "What can I do that will boost my energy level?"

    Instead of saying, "I'm terrible at marketing myself," say, "I'm going to learn how to become an expert marketer."

    How you talk to yourself has a big impact on how positively you view yourself and your abilities.

  8. Schedule time each week to do some creative forward thinking. Block off a half-hour or so each week to think of areas of your life that would benefit from some proactivity. What's the best way to create a residual income stream for yourself? How can you increase your reputation within your marketplace? And so on.

    Also put yourself in your boss's or client's shoes. What can you do that will make their job easier? How can you help them produce more revenue and profit? What could you do to make their life easier?

  9. List the consequences of living in reactive mode. What is the price you're paying for not being proactive? Less clients? Less money? Less contentment and happiness? Make a list of everything that will happen to you if you continue along a reactive path.
  10. List the benefits of being proactive in life. On the flipside, list everything good that will happen to you because you've decided to live your life more proactively. You'll have more (and happier) clients … more repeat business … more referrals … more money … and so on.
  11. Deal with your fears. One reason people are hesitant to flex their proactive muscle is often because it means facing something they fear. For example, you might avoid marketing your services on a regular basis because you're afraid of rejection and uncomfortable trying to sell yourself and your services. The first thing is to recognize and acknowledge that fear is stopping you from making forward progress. And then put together an action plan to deal with your fears. For more information, check out my article “12 Ways to Confront the Fears that Are Blocking Your Success.
  12. Set deadlines. Often, if you have no deadline to finish a project, it can take longer than it should. If you give yourself firm deadlines to start and finish the tasks in your queue, you can cut down on the completion time considerably. Remember Parkinson's Law: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”
  13. Hold yourself accountable, or enlist a friend, coach, or mentor to keep you accountable. It's easy to not do the things you know you should be doing each day. So it's very important to set standards for yourself and live up to them. If you find that you let yourself off the hook too often, talk to someone you know and offer to hold them accountable if they will hold you accountable.
  14. Take responsibility … and remember that you always have the power to choose. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey writes that the word "responsibility" – response-ability – means the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame "circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior," he says.

Covey talks about the four special human endowments that give us power:

  1. Self-awareness – If someone offers you a donut, you don't have to accept it.
  2. Conscience – Making decisions that align with your principles.
  3. Imagination – Your ability to come up with alternative and creative responses.
  4. Independent will – You have the freedom to choose the response that's right for you. You aren't forced to conform.

The bottom line being that you control your actions and response – no one can force you into doing something you don't want to do.

Henry David Thoreau once said:

"I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor."

As a freelance writer (or an aspiring freelance writer), being proactive is the key to success. If you keep these 14 tips in mind and keep pushing yourself into proactive mode, there's no doubt that you will achieve your writer’s life goals and live life on your terms.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


Click to Rate:
Average: 5.0
Published: November 5, 2012

2 Responses to “Become 5,000 Percent More Effective with These 14 Tips on Proactivity”

  1. Excellent article, John! I thoroughly enjoyed it!

    RNin2013November 9, 2012 at 12:19 pm


Guest, Add a Comment
Please Note: Your comments will be seen by all visitors.

You are commenting as a guest. If you’re an AWAI Member, Login to myAWAI for easier commenting, email alerts, and more!

(If you don’t yet have an AWAI Member account, you can create one for free.)


This name will appear next to your comment.


Your email is required but will not be displayed.


Text only. Your comment may be trimmed if it exceeds 500 characters.

Type the Shadowed Word
Too hard to read? See a new image | Listen to the letters


Hint: The letters above appear as shadows and spell a real word. If you have trouble reading it, you can use the links to view a new image or listen to the letters being spoken.

(*all fields required)