Why You Should Take The Initiative

“A lot of times in life, things won’t be handed to you, opportunities won’t just present themselves to you, and relationships or friendships don’t just form out of thin air.”

A lot of times in life, things won’t be handed to you, opportunities won’t just present themselves to you, and relationships or friendships don’t just form out of thin air. You must be making the effort more often than not to take the initiative to do all those things I just mentioned. It is not easy and can cause you rejection, stress, and even heartache, but if you just expect your life to just progress on its own without putting in the work, you will be sorely mistaken.

Making that initial effort will make the difference as you devote 80-90 or even 100% to get the return you were looking for. You may expect others at work, at school, or in your personal life to meet your half-way or 50/50 after a while but you may find that it’s a running theme in that instead of finding it as being equal or meeting them halfway, it’s likely to be more 60-40 or 70-30 in terms of your effort versus theirs. Now, that does not mean you should be taking the initiative all the time to ask for that promotion, or be open to developing a friendship, or seeking a new relationship but you’ll be better off from driving the effort rather than by taking a backseat.

Having more of the effort initially won’t just make an impression on the person but it will also develop your abilities, your relationships, and your professional / educational future more so than if you had made less of the effort. You should be conscious that the initiative you are taking is worth it and that the time you are putting in gets the result(s) that you are looking for. Your hard work, effort, and perseverance should lead to the other party putting in some conscious effort after a while. If it is just a one-way street in terms of that effort months or years later, I think that relationship, job, or friendship is likely to be doomed to fail.

It would not be fair or just for you to be constantly taking the initiative especially when that person isn’t reciprocal at all or even 30-40% of the way in a friendship or relationship. If you are giving all of the effort and feel like you’re not getting anything back from it, you may be dealing with an ‘emotional vampire’, who you may enjoy their company and like them but the fact that you are putting in all the work to keep things going and them not doing anything to reciprocate is not only a form of manipulation but it is also a sign of someone who only wants to take advantage of you.

They may lack certain qualities including introspection or self-awareness so they may not think they are at fault but if you believe that nothing is going to change, your time and efforts aren’t being valued adequately, and you are not getting as much in return from them, you may need to cut them off or just take a break from being with them or working for them. I encourage proactivity, being extroverted, sociable, and wanting to take on new goals, but if it is draining you and the results professionally or the relations personally you get as a result are not satisfying from that 60-40 or 70-30 set up, it may be best to move on to another person or opportunity.

To cite some examples, if you are good at reaching out to friends or acquaintances and just checking in to see how they are doing or even making the effort to see them and spend time together, that’s a positive initiative to take and shows you care about keeping that relationship going even if it had fizzled out a bit. However, if you feel like you are constantly the one making the calls, setting up the plans, or checking in on them, and they are not doing the same to you on that 30-70 or 40-60 balance that I mentioned, then it may be best to cut back on making the initiative there. If they truly cared about you, they would seek to make plans to see you by their own initiative or they would call to check in every now and then to see how you have been doing. Again, you should not be doing that all the time and if you find that it is becoming a pattern with that person, it may be best to stop seeing them so much since it looks like more of a one-sided friendship or relationship rather than a balanced one.

Another example professionally would be if you’re looking to boost your career and would like to learn new skills, then you should take that initiative with a training or a workshop or a conference that can make you more valuable to your employer. Similarly, if you take it upon yourself at work to learn a new skill by taking courses or attending seminars or providing trainings to others, it should be recognized not only to develop your career but to also further yourself in your role with better compensation or to be promoted to a new role because of the skills / abilities you acquired. If you take the time to volunteer, to be trained, to train, and to become a better worker, your employer or company should realize that it is also not a one-way street so there should be a proper recognition of your having taken the initiative to be more valuable to the firm in question.

However, if you find that after multiple trainings, skills developed, or competencies improved upon, that you are not getting the desired career promotion or compensatory boost, it may be that your initiative, while recognized, is not being formally appreciated. You made the most of the opportunities given but the other party involved doesn’t seem to recognize the new value or abilities you can provide. In this kind of situation, it may be best to start looking elsewhere professionally with those new proficiencies in your work to find a firm, company, or organization who will do their best to meet you halfway or maybe 40-60 so that you know that they care about you staying with them into the future and that your presence is both valued and appreciated, which is actually shown in different ways, a promotion, a raise, or otherwise.

Personally or professionally, you should consistently be looking to take action or initiative to improve your life in either way. However, it should not give the other party free reign to not give anything back in return or to provide their own initiatives or actions for you to take part in after they start it up. If you invite your friend to a barbecue, hopefully they’ll reciprocate in the future by having you over for a birthday party. If you do a skills workshop for a week to improve your competency at work, maybe your company or firm can reward you with a promotion to apply those new skills you picked up. It’s not always 50-50 in life and you may have to do most of the work, especially at the beginning of a new job or friendship. However, if it is you who is giving 100% and them putting in 0% in return on a consistent basis without the other party realizing it, it’s a toxic kind of relationship and you should be cutting ties with that person or entity as soon as possible.

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

“Now, it can be easy to overlook the small stuff because of how tedious and unrewarding the small details or tasks can be sometimes. However, to build up to handling the big things in life, you can’t sweat the small stuff.”

In other articles, I have stressed the importance of focusing on what you have control over in your life and not worrying about what is out of your control. I also have discussed why you should start each day by tackling small you can do to build confidence and belief in yourself such as making your bed each morning or being able to cook meals consistently each week. Now, it can be easy to overlook the small stuff because of how tedious and unrewarding the small details or tasks can be sometimes. However, to build up to handling the big things in life, you can’t sweat the small stuff.

In this post, I am going to focus on how to make the small ‘stuff’ or ‘tasks’ a little bit easier than before. While you may have no choice to get the small stuff done so they don’t become big problems later, I do believe it is easier now than ever to get the small stuff done as quickly and as painlessly as possible without sweating it too much. I am going to cover three different ways where you at home can get the small stuff done and to be done well with no issues. Between automation, making list(s) / calendar tracking, and keeping a consistent weekly or daily routine, you won’t have to worry about the small stuff because you’ll have a system ready to go that is organized and efficient to handle all your menial tasks.

Step 1: Automate, Automate, Automate

When most people think of automation, they think of giant robots handling packages in a factory or a counter where you can order McDonald’s without talking to a human being because they’ve been replaced by an interactive screen; while that is automation, that’s not the kind of automation I am talking about. You can automate many menial or annoying tasks or chores these days with the palm of your hand.

There are multiple mobile applications or websites where you can automate your payments whether its’ your mortgage / rent, your utility bills including Internet, electric, gas, etc. or even when it comes to your retirement, insurance, or other long-term commitments. You no longer need to send a check or use the mailing system to automate these chores or tasks. Bills are among the most annoying of the small stuff that we must take care of but even though we still have to pay them, it’s easier now than ever to set up a system that month to month, year to year, takes care of it for you with minimal effort.

In addition, there used to be a lot more work involved to rent a car, to get your driver’s license, to apply for a passport. I believe many of these tasks, while still tedious involve less bureaucracy than before and are more technologically advanced where you don’t need to go to the DMV, the post office, etc. You can do most of these menial tasks from the comfort of your home and that makes the ‘small stuff’ much less to sweat about.

Step 2: Making List(s) / Track with Your Calendar

Related to automating your small tasks, it’s easier now with the Internet or the digital age in general to create new portable lists or having different kinds of calendars to track your daily, weekly, and/or monthly tasks. You can easily categorize your lists by kinds of tasks whether it’s for errands, bills, family obligations, travel, work items, business tasks, etc. and keep track of what you need to still do with check lists. The best part is with the digitalization, you can keep your lists with you on the go rather than having to carry a notepad or small book with you everywhere you go to remind you of what’s on the list(s).

Similarly, to the digitization of lists, using digital calendars to mark down different work, personal, school, travel, family events is key, and you can also color code them to not mix them up. You can use various applications to set up your calendars and to set reminders, so you won’t forget the tasks, obligations, or other ‘small stuff’ you need to take care of. The best thing about calendars is you can also mark them by time and place and to put them in chronological order to not overlap.

Calendars used to be big sheets of white paper that were physically based and a bit hard to read depending on the person’s handwriting. Now, similar to lists, you can take your calendars with you on the go. It is good for the environment too as you waste less paper too when you put your lists and calendars on your phone or laptop rather than a piece of paper. Just remember to protect your privacy and make sure your personal lists and events remain personal.

Step 3: Stay Consistent with Your Routine(s)

This last step may seem a bit redundant, but you are your own worst enemy or best friend when it comes to keeping consistent with your routines. You can set them up however you want but just make sure they work for getting all the small stuff in your life done well. If you’re better at doing a bunch of things in one day, then you should do it. If you are instead a master at spreading out tasks over a week or even a month, that should be your route to small stuff completion. I recommend going through a trial and error to see if a daily routine or a weekly routine, or even a monthly routine for certain tasks would work best for you.

You should not get frustrated if you need to add to your routine(s) or take things away when you no longer do them. Maybe you prefer automating grocery delivery on a different day instead of going on a Saturday when you have karate practice; you should be comfortable with adapting your routine as new tasks and even new hobbies fill your schedule. The key to consistency is to keep doing what you have to do every day, every week, or every month to keep life going right as much as you can control. Making sure your bills are paid on time, saving up for your rent or mortgage by keeping a set budget, or showing up to your soccer practices each week and not skipping will all make huge differences in your life.

To improve your overall life satisfaction, I believe it’s necessary especially as you get older to embrace these three steps to help you overcome the small stuff that could end up derailing you in life if you don’t take care of them and don’t do so consistently. You may think you only need one out of these three steps, but I think all three steps are great to utilize to some degree.

They also really complement each other as well as you can set your calendar to what bills you pay through an automated application each month and make a routine of following that system you set up for not just a month but a year and beyond. To not end up sweating the small stuff, you got to plan and strategize in advance to make sure you don’t even have to think about the small stuff in the future because you’ll already have planned to have each menial task, chore, or errand set up to be taken care of without waiting until the last minute.

The Utility of Making Lists

“A key productivity hack that really works wonders in our fast-paced, modern era, which involves both discipline and consistency is to make a list. It is also an excellent habit to build upon and one that only requires your laptop and a ‘notes’ application or just a simple pen and piece of paper.”

A key productivity hack that really works wonders in our fast-paced, modern era, which involves both discipline and consistency is to make a list. It is also an excellent habit to build upon and one that only requires your laptop and a ‘notes’ application or just a simple pen and piece of paper. Lists have a reputation of being tedious and time-consuming, but what is actually more time-consuming is spending minutes or even hours trying to remind yourself what tasks or items you actually have to do.

List making is a good habit to build upon for a number of reasons. You hold yourself accountable and there is no shirking away from what you have set for yourself. The biggest misconception when it comes to lists is that they are all the same and focused on a to-do list. You can make lists for other reasons ranging from your progress at the gym with different weights you’ve lifted and what you hope to accomplish next to your future goals in life and what you hope to do in your ‘bucket list.’ Lists not only involve things you have to do whether its grocery shopping, what bills you have to pay, or what errands you have to run but also what career / business goals you have, what your exercise regimen looks like or where you hope to travel to in terms of next destinations.

Making lists is part of exercising that daily discipline that you need to have in order to put yourself on a path to success. It’s easier to accomplish your goals or your tasks when you remember what they are. You may have an amazing memory and feel you don’t need to have any lists at all but having that reminder especially if you have a due date for a pending school assignment or a work task can really help you especially if your memory fails you, which is always possible.

The impact of technology in our lives has made our attention spans that much more limited or distracted so I believe that the utility of lists has increased in response. There are many more things on our plate that we have to pay attention to that we may not have time to remember them all. Lists can help us organize these tasks from most urgent to least urgent and give us some peace of mind since you would likely have these lists stored in a place such as in an application on a computer or in a folder if you’re more traditional with pen and paper.

Not only do lists help to organize our lives, our goals, and our tasks, but lists also hold us accountable just by the fact that they make clear what you have done or what you have not done. There is no arguing with a list because you have either done it or not done it. You can indicate in a list your progress towards the goal or the task but it’s better to simplify it to be blunt to ask of you whether the item is completed or not. If it isn’t done yet, you can go back to it to see how much you have left to do, whether it’s been started yet, or how much you have left to finish. That kind of blunt accountability, which can be lacking in our society, is going to be staring you right in the face, so there is really no hiding from a list because it does not sugarcoat anything or try to come up with an excuse.

I also would like to point out that making too many lists can hinder you from achieving all you would like to get done each day, each week, or beyond. You should be careful not to make too many lists or have too many notes where you start to forget what actually is most vital to get done. I would recommend instead to make one list only for a specific part of your life such as one for exercise, one for work, one for business, one for errands, and perhaps one for future goals. That’s five lists right there on a specific subject so not to become too cluttered or difficult to implement. Lists can help you out a lot up to a point but can become burdensome when you have a dozen lists for ten different parts of your life.

In any list you make, focus on a main goal you wish to achieve for the day and then start to branch out to include weekly tasks and then long-term goals that may take months. Organizing an individual list around immediate, medium-term, and long-term tasks is an effective way to stay on top of each part of your life that will need attention. Having five lists, for example, can be helpful too where you might start the day looking at your exercise task(s) to complete, then move on to work/school, then see about errands, and then see what future goals you are working towards that you can start on. Organizing lists is about as important as making lists to begin with and it’s very important not to make too many lists where you feel like you can’t keep track of them all or have too long of a list where it distracts from your other lists that you’re working on.

You may be thinking to yourself right now, why do you care about making lists so much and why have lists at all? Having list(s) is about building structure in one’s life. You can create good habits from following your lists and you can organize your life in a meaningful and productive way. Also, you alone can hold yourself accountable with lists as it’s only you who knows about the list and is responsible for completing the goals and the tasks that you set up for yourself. No one else is going to hold your hand so it’s up to you alone to be reliable, responsible, and solely in charge of ultimately crossing those important items off your list(s) to help make your life a better, happier, and healthier one.

The Why of Doing Mundane Tasks

“When the famous American inventor and politician, Benjamin Franklin, indicated that the two certainties in life were ‘death and taxes’, I think he forgot to mention an overlooked third one that we all experience at one point or another: mundane tasks.”

How much of our lives are made up of dull and repetitive tasks that we would rather not do? How often during the day, the week, the month, or the year are made of things that we have to do out of lack of choice but also an obligation? Whether it is an obligation based on our work, our homes, our hobbies, or our businesses; mundane tasks are simply part of life’s overall equation. When the famous American inventor and politician, Benjamin Franklin, indicated that the two certainties in life were ‘death and taxes’, I think he forgot to mention an overlooked third one that we all experience at one point or another: mundane tasks.

Whether it is going to pick up the newspaper or taking the mail in or dropping off something at the post office, these little errands or tasks are unavoidable and are not the most stimulating to go through. Other tasks like going to the supermarket, cleaning out a pool or cleaning your pool, doing the laundry, washing the dishes are all repetitive but if you notice how mundane they are, you will likely have a worse time doing them all and forget how important they are.

While we may think that we lack control over these dull tasks, the truth is we often do control our attitude to these mundane tasks and how we go about doing them. We control if we do them at all, how we do them, and how fast it will take us to do them. We can make them fun or enjoyable with the help of some music or even a game to see if you or a friend or a family member can do them faster than you. If you think about these tasks, we often feel better about ourselves for having done them afterwards and feel like our days were more accomplished because we were able to complete these tasks as a habit of ours rather than going out of the way to do them like an abnormal chore.

Tasks are meant to be completed but in many of these cases, without our actions, perhaps our lives will be more disorderly and disorganized without finishing these small tasks first. How can we accomplish great tasks in our day-to-day if we can’t get the little things done first? If we want to tackle issues in our community, our country, or even for the world, should we not start with making our bed first consistently first or being able to cook for ourselves with relative ease?

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” This particular excerpt of a great speech by United States Navy Admiral and Former JSOC Commander William H. McRaven puts the utility of these mundane tasks in our daily lives in perspective. The focus of his commencement speech was about how by accomplishing these tiny tasks, preferably at the beginning of our day, you start to gain more momentum to complete bigger and bigger tasks by the end of that day. Making your bed is just one of those many mundane tasks that we are faced with in our lives and that we usually have control over doing or not doing.

If we choose to not do them, this lack of confidence or a lack of accomplishment can carry over to the bigger and more pressing tasks that we have to handle later on, often in the span of minutes or hours, at work or in our relationships. As a former Navy SEAL, McRaven saw the bed-making procedure as key to the rest of his day. While at first, he thought of the task of being forced to make his bed tedious and maybe beneath him as a future SEAL, it later taught him necessary skills such as compliance, confidence, and reinforced habits.

Our mundane tasks that we have to do our based on our autonomy in that no one else can do them for us. By doing these tasks on a consistent basis, we build upon our good habits instead of bad habits. Perhaps most importantly, we learn that we do in fact have some control over our lives. While the big things in life can challenge and thwart us again and again, we know that we can handle basic tasks that make us feel better and give us the confidence to try and try again at the bigger tasks that are more complex and complicated.

If we cannot handle the small stuff no matter how tedious it is, we likely will not be able to handle the bigger tasks, which may be even more tedious. The mundane tasks are easy, repetitive, and do not take as much time usually. It goes without saying that if you can start to do them once or twice, you can start to build up that habit muscle and then you will be on your way to doing these tasks on a consistent basis making them easier and less daunting.

In a lot of ways, we overlook the little moments in life which tend to be the most endearing and the most special. It’s important to not do that as well with the little tasks such as making your bed, taking out the trash, or paying your bills. The little things are easy to accomplish when you measure them up against the harder tasks like running a marathon, becoming a millionaire, or having a successful business or career. Once you take care of the little things though, you may be in store for a positive ripple effect that could lead to wins or gains in the harder areas. Even if you have bad days or expectations of your day fall short, at least at the end of the day, you will know that you took care of the small stuff and can be proud of those small victories which keep us going during rough times, especially now in this perilous year of 2020.

Lastly, doing different mundane tasks on different days can help us as well give us that continued sense of accomplishment and meaning that we can often lack on certain days if we don’t have anything to do. Spreading out the mundane parts of life instead of saving them all for a weekend or one day in particular will also ease your stress levels and cause you to feel more evened out as you go through your week. You won’t be stressing out about 5 or 7 mundane tasks you have to do at the end of the week if you do one of them each day to balance it all out.

Nobody likes mundane tasks including myself, but they do serve a purpose in making you a more responsible adult and a better human being. You get better at them the more you do them and which also tends to make them less tedious over time. Unfortunately, we all find out in life that it is not all fun and games and part of life has to be drudgery, but it doesn’t always have to be doom and gloom. Throw on some music or your favorite podcast, use a cup of a coffee or a fruit juice to get you going and make your bed first thing in the morning to get the day started. I promise that with a little self-motivation and self-determination, life will look less daunting and your confidence will start to grow the more mundane tasks you accomplish on a daily and weekly basis.

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