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  • 01.22.15

5 Habits For A Better, More Proactive You

Here’s how to change your habits–and life–so you’re not just going through the motions.

5 Habits For A Better, More Proactive You
[Photo: Flickr user MIKI Yoshihito]

When considering what goals I want to accomplish, I’m sometimes tempted to run down the usual list–exercise more, wake up earlier, eat healthier.

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But what I’m really looking for are goals that in every way help me improve, evolve, and create excitement for my brain and those around me so that I feel connected to life and not simply move through it.

Here are five habits I’m working on to create the best life, the best me, and the best work experience I can that you can adopt, too:

1. Be A Host For The Possibilities

The best days are when I feel like serendipity is at play and the world is operating to delight and surprise me. Playing host to the possibilities and teaching others to do the same keeps me free and open to what can happen.

To truly be a host for the possibilities I check in with myself frequently and make micro adjustments as I work through my day. Did I get enough sleep, if not, can I look ahead to when I will? Did I eat well today? And by “well” I don’t mean all day snacking with no real meal to sustain me. Did I have some time, even 30 minutes in my calendar, for long-range projects and thinking?

2. Preparation As A Confidence Builder

I work with many young marketing professionals and I’m fascinated by their confidence or lack of it when they are involved in new client engagements, meetings, industry events, and even one on one sessions. Confidence issues are complex. So complex, in fact, that Katty Kay and Claire Shipman dedicated an entire book to the subject with The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know.

My best method for confidence building is to be prepared, which takes time and a lot of it. I wake up early or stay up later or miss some shows I love to prepare, but it’s well worth the time to feel confident. Tony Robbins recently talked about taking 30 hours to prepare for a meeting with a CEO that he was interviewing for his new book. I’m after that kind of mastery.

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3. Operate For Your Purpose

I abhor the word balance because it’s not what I aim for and it creates so many false pressures for working women. The updated label for the idea is work life integration. Business magazines and websites are filled with bylines from executives on how they do it successfully.

When I was interviewed last year on Maybrooks.com, I talked about aiming for ambition in my home and work life. However, my thinking has evolved over the past 12 months and I now realize that if I operate for my purpose I feel accomplished about my home and work contributions.

My main purpose is to create a safe and stable home for my husband, Mike, and our two kids so that we can experience lives filled with possibility. When I talk about that purpose with Mike, especially during crazy weeks, it’s easier for us to manage my travel schedule and the kids’s many activities.

4. Design Your Time

I go through cycles where I feel that time is totally out of my control and someone else is dictating where I must be and when. It makes me anxious, unfocused, and frankly, pissed off at the world. A very good friend and mentor stopped me while I was detailing this feeling to him and asked me to shift my thinking to a place of proactivity. Instead of being driven by time, could I design it? Could I create the schedule I needed to accomplish big things?

When people or obligations ask for my time, I ask myself if the time is working to build what’s most important. If not, I design it in or decide to delegate or redirect.

5. Ask For More Help

I make hundreds of decisions each day and I love being a leader that asks lots of questions, looks at the data, and is decisive. However, these past few months I started to feel I was always being asked to make the decisions. And others felt the same way. A senior member of my staff said she felt she was carrying her team on her back and on the worst days, dragging them along. It made me step back and think about how to get people really committed and engaged in their work. If you give someone responsibility they will rise to meet the expectation, or they won’t and that in and of itself is an answer.

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As a leader, it’s my responsibility to foster decision-making amongst my teams. By teaching others to make solid business choices, great or small, I’m training my employees to be more self-sufficient. Leaner teams that are accountable to the greater company are better for business.

I now ask, “What do you need from me to do your best work?” This question gives me room to think in a different way and lets a colleague know I’m here if they need me and also encourages them to move forward or his or her own.

Heather Kernahan is General Manager and Executive Vice President of Eastwick, a technology-focused integrated communications agency.

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