Proactive Time vs Reactive Time: A Lesson on Productivity

I like to get stuff done. 

I wouldn’t call myself a workaholic, but I would say that I’m driven and certainly passionate. I often describe myself as intense. It’s just who I am, it’s not good, it’s not bad, but a reality that I face every time I look in the mirror.  

Part of that intensity is that I like to do a lot of stuff. I don’t like to say no, and I am always looking for ways to do more. I often ask the question: How can I make that work? 

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This line of thinking leads me to a day full of stuff and often is reactive versus proactive. Reactive time is the time that is demanded by other people. For example, someone walks into my office and wants to talk. That is reactive time. I’m reacting to their needs. When someone calls and wants to pitch a sales idea. That is reactive time. My son needs help with his homework in the afternoon. That is reactive time. 

Reactive time is not bad, but reactive time (by its nature) means that it is not MY time. It is the time I am giving to someone else, or (in a lot of cases) multiple people. What I’m learning is that during the reactive time I must be willing to sacrifice what I want for what the other person wants. I’m reacting to their wants. 

Proactive time is time for me. It is the time where I am going to become proactive on the projects that I want to work on, and as a result, it is MY time. Proactive time can look like a day of writing, scheduling time for seminary homework, date nights with my wife, fitness, devotional, playing with the kids – it can be anything. Proactive time is not bad or good it is just a measure of what I’m trying to accomplish. 

Throughout most of my life, I believed that reactive time trumped proactive time. 

Then, I learned something: Highly productive people schedule both. 

I participated in a discussion around the High Impact Leader Guide (by Carey Nieuwhof) and in that course, he recommends something called block scheduling. In block scheduling, you make room for proactive time AND reactive time. 

This thought process has been transformational for me. I’m now block scheduling everything. I’ve intentionally blocked out time for writing, answering emails, homework. I’ve gotten into this so much that I’m now even being proactive about my reactive time. 

I’m scheduling a time to be around for when I think my kids will need me the most. During that time, I can still do “stuff” but I know that at any time I’ll be interrupted. And I’m prepared for the interruption. 


In a lot of ways, I feel like I’ve reclaimed part of my life. There was even a moment this week when I felt like I was ahead of where I wanted to be on a project (that never happens). 

By being proactive in my scheduling I became more productive on the projects that matter most to me. And I felt better about my life (duh!). 

When we own our calendar we begin to own our life. 


What hacks do you have productivity? How do you schedule? 

In my next post I'm going to share how I learned to ditch the to-do list, and really get stuff done. Be sure not to miss it by signing up for the blog and have it sent directly to your inbox!