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From Reactive to Proactive: A More Human Approach to Starting Your Day in Academia

A morning at the office. We can see a computer and a cup of coffee.
My morning ritual involves starting each day with a strong, hot cup of black coffee.

A client asked me: "Marina, how do you start your day—proactively or reactively?"🤔

One of my clients recently shared his daily struggle of feeling overwhelmed each morning, as if stepping onto a battlefield without a plan, merely reacting to whatever crisis surfaces. He posed a profound question that resonated with me: "Marina, how do you start your day—proactively or reactively?" This is a question that many of us in academia might find all too familiar, especially our younger colleagues who are still learning to manage the flood of responsibilities and the challenge of saying "No."

Starting your day reactively means you're constantly at the mercy of unforeseen events, perpetually a step behind. However, being proactive means setting intentions and actions in place beforehand, which helps steer your day rather than being steered by circumstances.

Here’s how you can shift towards a more proactive start:

  1. Define Your Core Priorities: Begin each morning by identifying one or two main tasks that will anchor your day. These aren't merely items on a to-do list—they're your commitment to directing your day purposefully amidst the academic hustle.

  2. Create a Morning Ritual That Energizes You: Whether it’s a brisk walk, meditative breathing, or simply savouring a quiet cup of coffee, find what centres you and dedicate yourself to it (it's a cup of coffee for me!). This isn’t just routine; it’s about claiming a moment of peace before diving into the academic whirlwind.

  3. Plan with Time Blocking. Several techniques can be used for this, but time blocking is always my first choice. This technique is crucial not just for managing tasks, but for consciously allocating your energy throughout the day. Schedule time for your planned tasks, and include buffer time for those inevitable academic surprises.

  4. Embrace Realism in Your Scheduling: Acknowledge that the day might not unfold as planned. By setting realistic expectations and spacing out tasks, you mitigate pressure and enhance your adaptability.

  5. End Your Day with Reflection: Dedicate a few minutes each evening to reflect on what went well and areas for improvement. This practice isn't merely about making adjustments—it’s about evolving your approach to proactively handle each new day in academia.

Transitioning from a reactive to a proactive stance requires both intention and practice. It's about making a conscious choice every morning to not just face the day, but to lead it. Let's transform our potential battlefields into gardens of productivity and calm.

I’m curious—how do you start your day? Are you more reactive or proactive? What strategies do you use to take control of your mornings? Fellow academics, especially those early in their careers, I’d love to hear your thoughts and strategies.🍊

I'm Dr. Marina Silva-Opps. If you're hungry for more insights on how to share your academic journey, time management, productivity, career success, and personal development, visit my LinkedIn profile, website, or send me a DM. And remember, I'm here to help!


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