Being Proactive vs Reactive

When I was in college, I was told an important secret of life. A motivational speaker came to visit one day and told us that the secret to living life is to anticipate problems before they happen. Be proactive instead of reactive. This concept seems obvious to everyone, so why do so few people actually follow it?

A system administrator can often find themselves going from one problem to the next trying to put out fires. People call complaining that the system is running slowly, or they can find out that the disk drive containing database backups filled and all of the backups failed overnight. It is so easy to get caught in the trap of running from one problem to the next.

How many of these problems could have been prevented by just a small amount of time being proactive? Thomas LaRock claims that three hours a week being proactive can save about 150 hours a year of trouble. It seems simple enough. So why don’t people actually spend time to do it?

The main excuse people give is that they don’t have time to be proactive. They are too busy running around trying to solve all of the other problems. Here is what you can do. Take some time today and think about what you would do if you had an hour to work on something proactive. Even while you are working on other problems, think about what could have been done to prevent it from happening.

  • Tired of people complaining about the system running slowly? Could you take an hour and develop and implement a way to track query response times so that everyone can understand what is normal (or not normal)?
  • Remember the example of the database backup filling? Could you take an hour to develop and implement a way to track database backup growth so that you could be alerted before the disaster?

These are countless examples on how you can apply this concept to every aspect of your life. This blog focused on system administrators because that is the field I am more familiar with, but there is no reason you could not apply the same tactic to any other job. Focusing on proactivity over reactivity is what separates the senior and junior level employees.