How to Take Initiative


Why will alone is not enough, you have to plan to take action. How to take initiative and go above and beyond expectations. 

In one of my previous post – What I learned working in a startup – I talked briefly about taking initiative, or more specifically I talked about how to take initiative. During my time at the startup I was commended on my ability to take initiative and get things done. And more importantly, go above and beyond what was expected and going that extra mile. This was surprising to me, on many levels. I wouldn’t consider someone that took initiative or got things done quickly and efficiently, in fact in many cases (*cough* highschool *cough*) I didn’t take the initiative enough and left things to the last minute. So what was the difference between the times when I took the initiative and times I didn’t? The difference was that I put myself in a position where I could take initiative.

“Anyone can take risks and do something without thinking”

 There are no people that naturally take the initiative or are intrinsically able to take action to get something done. Now understand when I talk about initiative I refer to people taking action to accomplish a goal or an outcome. I am not referring to impulsiveness. Anyone can take risks and do something without thinking, and usually these are very stupid things. When I talk about initiative I mean the ability to do necessary action. But more importantly, I’m talking about knowing when to do what is necessary.

“Taking the initiative has as much to do with what happens before the action than the action itself.”

You cannot take the initiative if you do not know when or what needs to be done. Regardless of how impulsive or risk-taking you are. Regardless of how much you want something, or desire it, or need it. You cannot do something if you don’t know what to do. Taking the initiative has as much to do with what happens before the action than the action itself.

Counter-intuitively you have to plan to be able to take initiative. This means being ready to take action. Let’s look at what you can do now to get started.

1. Health

This is a fundamental part of your life that you should always prioritize first before proceeding with anything. Are you physically and mentally able to take initiative and complete the task? Not everyone is going to be able to do more work than they already have. In fact some of you will already be struggling with the work you current do. But before you examine your abilities, evaluate first if there is a more underlining issue other than lack of knowledge or experience. E.g You’re not getting enough sleep and feel too tired during the day to finish all your work.

I cannot stress how important it is to make sure you are physically fit, getting enough rest, and eating well are to your physical and mental health. Having the will alone to do something will not be enough to sustain your efforts.

2. Time

Will you have time to do more. Even if you had the will and were ready to take action, would you have the time to complete it? You need to understand how much time and effort is required to take the initiative before you can take initiative. Once you do you need to examine your schedule and see whether or not you are in a position to take action. If you”re too busy then you need to fix that issue before taking the initiative and doing more.

You need to have a schedule that is both efficient and flexible. Efficient enough to do the most that you can with the time that you do have and accomplish the goals you want. But flexible enough to be able to fit extra work and tasks.

3. Workspace

Do you have the tools and the workplace to get it done? Even if you have the knowledge and experience to know what to do, do you have the tools to accomplish it? Regardless of where your work place is, whether it’s at the office or at home, you need to make sure it has the tools that you will need. You should also focus on making sure this work place optimizes the amount of work you put in by clearing distractions.

Is my workplace and tools ready to be used, or do I need to prepare them first? Being in a position to take initiative isn’t simply tied to oneself, it also relates to the situation around you. Make sure that everything you need to begin is as ready to take action as you are. There will be times when you will be ready but your tools will not, minimize this by always having the tools you need ready and available, whether it’s a wrench or software, have it ready.

4. Support

When you need help, not if but when you do, do you know where to find it? Have the access to those resources available at all times and ready at your disposal. Going the extra mile and doing more will always be tough and you will need all the help you can get. Make sure you know where to get it when you do.

Support also includes people within your work place or in your social circles that can help you in the future. Build those relationships and ask for their help and guidance if you need it. Don’t forget you don’t have to only rely on yourself to get things done, use all the help you can get.

If you want to take action and get things done then focus on these fundamentals first. Get them on point and ready, so that you will be ready when the time comes to do what it takes.

And if I can sum up this entire article it would be – If you want to take the initiative, then make sure you’re ready to take it.