Be Proactive Not Reactive

November 30, 2011

Would you like to have this comic as a 18 by 24 inch poster? CLICK HERE! Put it on your wall to remind yourself of the secret to defeating procrastination.


Watch out for the Icecreamasaurus!

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62 Responses to Be Proactive Not Reactive

  1. Kait on November 30, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Hehe! This is cute and encouraging, Steve. I’m glad you discovered calendars!

    • stephen on November 30, 2011 at 3:27 pm

      Yeah, who knew right? Calendars are awesome!

      • gabrielle on December 6, 2011 at 12:57 pm

        AWESOME. :D

      • Sami on December 21, 2013 at 7:31 pm

        Hey! Could you publish a monthly calendar with snippets of your encouraging comics? I would totally buy it. They’re so inspiring and it helps me get through my days :)

    • Jason on December 4, 2013 at 5:09 pm

      This is beautifully put. Thank you

  2. Adam Casalino on November 30, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    Scott McCloud just plugged your blog on Google+. What an inventive way of sharing advice! Taking comics to a new level, brother.

    • stephen on November 30, 2011 at 8:52 pm


    • stephen on November 30, 2011 at 8:52 pm

      Wow. Thanks for sharing that– I’m excited!

  3. Kevo on November 30, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Can’t wait until you have these all written up as a top-selling motivational book!

    • stephen on November 30, 2011 at 8:52 pm

      Thanks buddy!

  4. Pam Prichard on December 1, 2011 at 3:41 am

    Way to go, Stephen!
    I think you’re a great philosopher, not just a cartoonist!

    • stephen on December 1, 2011 at 4:14 am

      Thank you!

  5. Phantos on December 1, 2011 at 6:02 am

    I was participating in National Novel Writing Month this year. 50,000 words of a story in 30 Days.

    I planned for an entire year on a project. I scheduled. I organized. I cataloged and calculated the appropriate workload to get it done within the deadline. I was dedicated, and I was responsible about getting it done. Basically, I did everything this comic preaches.

    And I think it’s why I failed. I did worse this year than when I attempted the same thing last year. When I had half the time to finish, and was more prone to procrastinating and spontaneity. When I had no plan at all. All of that planning and keeping track just took time out of writing, and cataloging the workload just reminded me of how impossibly behind schedule I would always be, no matter how many sleepless nights I spent plowing through through thousands of words.

    I planned ahead thinking I’d have an entire month. When life intervened, I couldn’t just roll with it. It wasn’t in accordance to The Schedule. And then the writer’s block kicked in, which also wasn’t part of The Plan. I may not have finished either way, but at least if I hadn’t put faith in planning ahead I might have been able to roll with those punches better. I wouldn’t have panicked, trying to readjust the workload to make up for days lost that I couldn’t predict.

    I guess what I’m saying is that this comic is full of it. OF COURSE planning ahead will always work in a sterile environment, where people who haven’t been in your life in years never suddenly pop back in, or family emergencies don’t occur. But we don’t live in a sterile environment. We live and work in an unstable, always-fluctuating set of circumstances you can never be prepared for.

    Being proactive doesn’t make yesterday an ally; it turns tomorrow into your worst enemy.

    • stephen on December 1, 2011 at 4:13 pm

      I’m sorry NaNoWriMo was such a miserable experience for you! I too experience the same thing when I attempted to do my first 24 hour comic– which is where you create a twenty four page comic in twenty four hours. I woke up early, started drawing, and got my but kicked by the ridiculous pace. It ended in failure.

      Even now I experience this– often when I make plans for my projects, I can rarely work as fast as I think I can, I always bite off more than I can chew– and then when life stuff happens, it’s all over. I’m going to be talking about this kind of stuff later on in the comic, so I hope you stay tuned! If not, thanks for stopping by and sharing your take on these issues!

      • Emily on December 20, 2011 at 9:42 pm

        And thank you, Stephen, for showing us how to respond graciously and productively to less-than-productive criticism. This comic is not “full of it.” It’s great advice, even if it doesn’t fit every situation perfectly (and nobody expects that it would fit every situation perfectly, anyway.)

        • Peggy on November 30, 2013 at 5:30 pm

          Amen, sister!

    • Weeawho on March 3, 2012 at 2:05 am

      I planned for NaNoWriMo too, and then, on October 31st, my house burnt down. It’s no reason to get sore and snippy at what in general is very good advice. On months where my house doesn’t burn down, this strategy works great for me and I have hundreds of comic pages as proof.

  6. PlanetMarz on December 1, 2011 at 6:44 am

    Dear Stephen,

    You just rocked my world with this comic! It is so true. I am in engineering college currently, and time management is pretty much everything, more than talent, more than knowledge. In my world of constant, constant, constant projects with their deadlines and too many to count unexpected events (in the past 24 hours: lost my wallet (minus 2 hours of my day) circuit burned me (ouch), testing a project yielded unexpected results (meaning more research next semester and busy all next week), team meeting went on two hours longer than planned, found wallet at 1:00am when stranger returns it (what??)). The schedule is sooo needed and keeps my life organic and flexible. Even when the unexpected happens, I find the schedule helps remind me “wow, where did all this time come from?” and I find it can move fluidly between topics and doesn’t feel just like a series of boxes I pass through day by day, hour by hour. I’m by no means the best time manager ever (your comic totally reminded me how important that skill is, haha!) but thank you for reiterating the value of being proactive! I’m totally linking this page to all my engineering friends, especially since Finals week is next week! I hope you someday you get the chance to publish all of these wonderful, wise comics in a book! I’d sure use it. :)

    P.S. Sorry for totally rambling about life! I’d be amazed if you read it all. Just a burst of awesome internal awakening from reading your work, and felt like sharing. :) Hope you have a good day!!

    • stephen on December 1, 2011 at 4:15 pm

      Awesome! These comics are aimed at artist folk, but if I can create something that makes it all the way to the engineering crowd, I know I’m on the right path. Thanks for the encouraging life ramblings! Good luck with your studies!

      • PlanetMarz on December 2, 2011 at 7:36 am

        Hey, thanks a ton! Really, a lot of us here in engineering college have our minds half soaked in some kind of artistic vision of life. For most of my peers, its passion for the world and wonders of living that drives us, just like artists. Such wonders help us feel at home in a universe detailed and full, and often intimidating, beyond our comprehension, and I think we face many of the same internal anxieties for identity and triumph that artists do. Keep sending out your great insights, Steve! They can travel far.

  7. Emanuel on December 1, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    I am gonna use the ‘calendar’ idea for my graphic novel as well. Time management was never my strong suits and I am a master at procrastination(I am not proud of this anymore). Looking back its been about 2 years I first came up with an idea for a graphic novel and I still am no where near the middle. Your ‘calendar’ process looks very effective!

    P.S: Looking forward to your Book Stephen. What’s it about?

    • stephen on December 1, 2011 at 4:19 pm

      I’ll be getting more to how to motivate yourself to accomplish your goals and plans later on, but a calendar is definitely a great tool to have.

      My book is called Mal and Chad!

  8. Andrew McPherson on December 2, 2011 at 2:48 am

    Google has a calendar feature included with all accounts; it’s really useful for time management, since it you can apply all sorts of dates and deadlines with timeblocks or even checkboxes, and will email you a couple days in advance if it’s prioritized..!!

    All the same, keep up the great work!! These are so fun to read.

  9. [...] So think about your own life.  When do you have time?  How could you use it better?  And try to be as productive with what is basically dead time as possible!  You’ll be surprised how much you can get done if you do!  Here’s a great post my buddy Stephen McCranie made about procrastination and time management. [...]

  10. [...] So think about your own life.  When do you have time?  How could you use it better?  And try to be as productive with what is basically dead time as possible!  You’ll be surprised how much you can get done if you do!  Here’s a great post my buddy Stephen McCranie made about procrastination and time management. [...]

  11. M.C.Marck on December 2, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    I’m the same way with school. I can totally do things the hour before class, and get A’s, but… The rest of the day, I’m sort of burn out. It’s a habit I’m trying to kick…

    Love your work so far! I’m looking forward to reading more!

  12. Week 48: Getting Proactive, — Happenchance on December 3, 2011 at 1:39 am

    [...] a great webcomic from  Stephen McCranie on being proactive rather than reactive. Choice quotes: When you [...]

  13. Lauren on December 5, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    Brilliant! Is there any chance you are selling prints of this? I would love to have this in my room as a reminder. If not maybe I can send some money your way and print them myself? If not that is okay too. Either way keep up the awesome work!!!

    • stephen on December 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm

      I’m crunched for time right now, so I don’t have any immediate plans for prints, but it’s definitely something I’ll be looking into in the future! I’m glad you like it so much you’d put it on your wall!

      • AJ on March 3, 2012 at 12:06 am

        I’d love a print of this, too!

  14. Rojin Shamlou on January 13, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    You are not only a cartoonist but also a philosopher. Great, I will put up the wise words on my door.

  15. KirinCartoon on February 29, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    I’m a current senior in college, majoring in applied design (concentration sequential arts). I’ve been going day by day just as you explained here. But I must say I totally agree that “Deadlinosaurus rex” will certainly seek up on you. (lol) I’ve found out that the last few semesters where I’ve used a planner (WITH A CALENDAR :) ), it made my days go by MUCH SMOOTHER! I should probably stick to that consistly now that I think about it. Thanks for reminding me of that advantage through this blog today :) Great work!

    I’d like to thank you once again for sharing yoru advice. These are things EVERYONE has or will experience and can relate to. Your goal of “making comics about true things” is definitely formulating itself cause I see it right here and now! I hope you put up so much more of your advice in this picture blog soon. I love reading it!

  16. Kathy Rupff on March 5, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    Hi Stephen,
    I was listening to your archived interview/podcast by Katie Davis on Brain Burps About Books, and came to your website. THIS IS GREAT!!!! Thank you so much!

  17. Emily on March 31, 2012 at 2:03 am

    Hey Stephen,

    This comic really spoke to me. :) It’s definitely so true – and I LOVE the deadlinosaurus rex! :) You are so talented (but we always knew that!)

  18. Ray on September 5, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    Hey Stephen,

    I love this comic! I would be interested in getting prints or even mini-comic versions of it if they ever become available. I teach at a private university and think this would be a great thing to hand out to students at the beginning of the semester. Especially Freshmen!

    • stephen on September 12, 2012 at 3:24 pm

      I’ll be looking into making some prints. Thanks for stopping by!

  19. a on September 8, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Excellent read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing a little research on that. And he just bought me lunch as I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thank you for lunch! “A human being has a natural desire to have more of a good thing than he needs.” by Mark Twain.

    • stephen on September 12, 2012 at 3:25 pm

      Ha ha, I’m glad you’re benefiting from these comics in more ways than one!

  20. naomi on October 11, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    wow! I absolutely love all your comics! Do you sell huge prints? I would love to stick them all over my room as daily reminders. These are fantastic. The work you do is really motivating. :)

    • stephen on October 12, 2012 at 4:36 pm

      I’m looking in to doing huge prints– I’ll keep you posted! Thanks!

  21. Ruffles on October 15, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    I chuckled when you made friends with Deadlinosaurus Rex.

  22. Julien Brightside on January 22, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Ah, the Deadlinosaurus Rex. I met him often during my studies.

    This post is rater good advice in general I think.

  23. Nadya War/Gib on June 23, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    It’s really neat how both this and many of your other stories are applicable both to art and to life in general. Profoundly potent stuff!

  24. J42Smith on October 18, 2013 at 4:27 am

    I’ve had this feeling since I was eleven and it still affects me today. It’s almost eerie to see someone else express what I always thought was a personal problem – and very well at that! Thank you.

    • stephen on October 18, 2013 at 3:33 pm

      You’re welcome!

  25. FerreTrip on October 29, 2013 at 5:22 am

    This is a nice little essay. But to be honest, this is the exact same thing I’ve been told my entire life. And I still don’t get it.

    I think part of this is my ADHD. But mostly, I’m just wondering: What do you have to say to people like me who really are easily distracted, enough that we are either afraid to plan or we always put off planning?

    • stephen on October 30, 2013 at 2:35 pm

      I’ve talked to ADHD people about this and they say that having extra stimulation in their environment to keep their minds occupied helps them focus on tasks, but I don’t know! I can’t really answer that question since I haven’t struggled with that. Let me know if you figure something out.

  26. Axel on October 30, 2013 at 5:25 am

    This was exactly the piece of advice I been searching for. I’ve been strugling with my procrastination for quite a while now. (I did made some good drawing whiles procrastinating though) But that’s not the point.

    I really feel that this is going to help me improve my use of time a lot.
    I can’t wait to get your book (and I’m also excited about the calendar you’re gonna be sending now, I really want one after reading this)

    Greetings from Argentina =)

  27. Axel on October 30, 2013 at 5:26 am

    This was exactly the piece of advice I been searching for. I’ve been strugling with my procrastination for quite a while now. (I did made some good drawing whiles procrastinating though) But that’s not the point.

    I really feel that this is going to help me improve my use of time a lot.
    I can’t wait to get your book (and I’m also excited about the calendar you’re gonna be sending now, I really want one after reading this)

    Greetings from Argentina =)

    • Axel on October 30, 2013 at 5:28 am

      Ups, posted twice. Sorry.

      And since i’m writing this: “drawing whiles” = “drawings while” xD

      Love you comics btw. I should have mentioned that before.

      • stephen on October 30, 2013 at 2:39 pm

        THanks Axel!

  28. Isabell on December 12, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Hi Stephen,
    This post is everything I need to move from this hole that I am stuck in. I have a HUGE and very ambitious goal sometimes I sit in a corner and cry because of its enormity. See, whatever I want to do is not even started in Africa yet!!I found this website yesterday., thanks for the encouragement though.

    One of my desires would have been to get the calendar for 2014, but yet again, my location is a problem. I live in Nairobi,Kenya :( :(

    Keep up with the great posts, and I wish you success in your book.

    Thank you, Thank you again. You have put a smile on my face.

    • stephen on December 19, 2013 at 6:29 pm

      Wow, what a tough circumstance! But also, it could be a big opportunity… being the first person to do something can be very impactful! Best of luck to you!

  29. Mia on January 7, 2014 at 10:18 am

    I think this is great advice and really well put (and drawn) especially the part about the bricks, but for serious procrastinators it’s not enough to say ‘be proactive’. It’s a bit like telling overeaters to just eat less – the habit is too ingrained and then continual failure to change (using poor methods and/or willpower) leads to low confidence and you get stuck in that loop. The scheduling advice is great (I love monthly calendar views cos they give you a big picture of your progress) and very necessary but what’s missing is the step before scheduling, which is how to break down big and seemingly impossible tasks, which is one of the main obstacles for procrastinators, preventing them from getting started on something until it can’t be put off anymore.

    I stumbled on these recently and it’s one of the best put descriptions of procrastination that I can relate to:
    why procrastinators procrastinate:
    how to beat procrastination:

  30. Aya Sofiya on January 25, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    This is my first encounter of your comic and I immediately fall in love! (love at the first sight does exist,huh?). I was glad my friend recommended me this site when I told her that I really loved drawing and used to draw comics so much when I was a little kid. But now, I’m afraid to do it because I know I will never finish my drawing and because I’m doing something else for my degree (which has nothing to do with drawing or arts) therefore I have little time for serious drawing except for random doodles on my lecture notes. And yes, my skill has become stagnant because I keep on doodling the same thing.

    Anyway, your drawing is so original. I mean, it feels so honest and “you” (this is a compliment even though I don’t know who you are but you know, sometimes people copy others’ style and they become stuck at it and they don’t make their drawing something within themselves. I don’t know if this make sense haha.)

    Thank you :D
    I’m extremely glad I found your website.

    • stephen on January 31, 2014 at 12:56 am

      You’re welcome! Thanks for being here!

  31. Avery on May 7, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Oh man. With my exams coming up in a week and me existing in a near constant state of panic and stress, this is SO applicable to me.

  32. […] This semester, I had my students read “Be Proactive, Not Reactive” by Stephen McCranie ( and asked them some questions about their own planning habits. A few of them said something that […]

  33. Diane on October 8, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    For whatever reason, the final frame of this has helped me with my procrastination more than almost anything else. It’s true that sometimes you can hear the same message over and over, but it doesn’t sink in until it’s presented in just the right way. Thank you so much.

  34. Holly on January 7, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    Wow. Just wow. I imagine that in a line of comments this long, one more may go unnoticed, but I have to comment anyway. That last bit about your past and present selves really put things into perspective in a way I’ve never thought of before. I’m really terrible to my future self!

    How can we treat ourselves like this? Present Self is such a selfish jerk and Future Self has to pick up all the pieces. Just thinking of it in those terms really shows you how things can snowball and become stressful and unmanageable.

    Really and truly, thank you for putting this stuff out there. I know I’m not the only one who needs to hear it. Love Space Boy and love your blog!

  35. […] Read cartoonist Stephen McCranie’s comic essay on managing time: Be Proactive, Not Reactive. […]

  36. Nanna Hinrichsen on January 4, 2020 at 7:12 pm

    Play the ball before it plays you is a cue to players to attack the ball and take the initiative on the grounder. It s a call to be proactive and not reactive with your fielding. Good fielders make plays happen; bad fielders just wait and let the ball determine the play. Following play the ball before it plays you made me a better fielder. Whenever I attacked a grounder, things usually turned out better compared to when I just waited for the ball to roll to my feet.

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