12/28/2012 01:15 am ET Updated Feb 26, 2013

How to Be Proactive at Work: Scott Belsky Interview

A challenge that I keep seeing is that small business owners have difficulty in picking a way of knowing what to focus on. To shed some light on this topic, I interviewed Scott Belsky, co-founder and CEO of Behance, the leading online platform for creatives to showcase and discover creative work.
Scott agrees that you should be thinking about auditing where your energy should go on a daily basis. For example, if you were to take all of the projects at work right now and lay them on an energy line that starts at idle then medium, then high and all the way to extreme. Then choose where to base your energy allocation on a daily basis. It's quite likely that you put too many at the higher extreme end. And there's always a reason for each one, "before I go this is important because of this," or "so and so is expecting that." Now, this client is super important and then you realize that you have too many on the higher extreme side. It's like opening your computer and starting 20 applications at once. The computer starts to run more slowly and you wonder why, it's because you're running too many things at once.

Determine Where to Allocate Your Energy

One of the challenges is to determine which things should be on low or idle and to have only a couple of things on the higher extreme end of the spectrum, this is really where you should spend most of your energy.

Energy does not necessarily mean time. In the morning, when you're freshest, an hour is a lot more productive than in the evening when you're tired. Once you have an understanding of where you should be allocating your energy on a daily basis, then you can start scheduling yourself, focusing on the right things at the right moments in your day.

Darwinian Prioritization

Scott shares a method of prioritizing, he calls "Darwinian Prioritization." Some of the most productive creative teams in the world operate using this method, wherein prioritization is done by natural selection. He says it's just the fancy name for nagging.

So when you have lot of things going on, and you're not sure which tasks to focus on, and you rely on your team around you, saying, "Hey! Scott, did you remember we have that meeting on Friday morning? Remember the meeting coming up. Remember the meeting."

And that throughout the day is consistently re-shifting Scott's energy towards what the team is telling him that he needs to be doing through natural selection. The more transparent it is to your team where energy should be going, the wiser decisions can be made on a moment by moment basis.

I really find that's true in an organization. I asked Scott how a reactive work day is different from a pro-active work day.

Reactive Versus Proactive Work

These days, we have more inboxes than we can ever, ever manage. We have email, Twitter , Facebook, and LinkedIn -- all these threads and feeds and everything coming into us. And it has basically come to the point where we could simply spend all day every day reacting to what's coming in to us rather than being proactive in what matters most to us. You can just reply to all your e-mails and never get anything else done.

With the proliferation of mobile devices, we have been pushed into this era of reactionary workflow, because the moments we used to have for down time between meetings, walking between buildings, in your car, on the subway; all of these moments have forced disconnections in your ability to think about the bigger picture, about what you're trying to achieve in your work and in your life. Scott admits being consumed by the constant tendency to react. We all suffer from it. It really gets in the way of any of our long term objectives. The trick is to build these windows of non-stimulation in our day. So how do you do this? Scott recommends dedicating some blocked period of time in your day doing the following:

• Instead of going through your inbox or to-do list or all these other sources of reactionary workflow, focus on a different list of 2-3 things that are very important to you over the long term

• Study some facts and figures that came out about your industry. This is the time when you can think strategically.

Best practices for women business owners

Women are the worst offenders of not allowing themselves to have that creative space. For instance, I asked Scott specific tactics to help them actually leverage and get those creative spaces into their days and he suggested:

1. Schedule it. Scott suggests that for starters, you have to schedule it. The calendar really doesn't lie. The calendar always shows where your priorities lie and what you value. And so you have to really put these windows of non-stimulation in the calendar in order to have them on a consistent basis.

2. Practice what you preach. You really have to have the people around you value the fact that you're making that time for yourself. Then you have to practice what you preach.

Be on the look out for Part 2, when Scott and I share solutions for Focus.

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Eli Davidson is a nationally recognized motivational speaker and executive coach. Her book, "Funky to Fabulous: Surefire Success Stories for the Savvy, Sassy and Swamped" (Oak Grove Publishing) has won three national book awards. Check out her blog