This is the third post in a series on how to be a self-starter. Post 1. Post 2.

Book cover: Oh, the THINKS you can Think, by Dr. Seuss

Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the THINKS you can think up if only you try!  – Dr. Seuss

Of the countless bedtime stories I read my daughter, this is one of my favorites (and hers). I hope to teach her lots of things, but the thing that’s most important to me is to teach her how to think.

If you can’t think clearly, you can’t write clearly. If you can’t write clearly, you’re seriously handicapped in today’s business environment. [If you’re a communications professional who can’t write clearly, you might as well find another line of work.]

This might seem obvious, but I’ve seen too much evidence that it isn’t: to do a good job as a communications professional, you have to think. Self-starters never stop thinking.

Question everything. Why do we publish a newsletter once a week? Why do we publish one at all? What does our audience need? What could I be doing better? What could I be doing that I’m not? What am I doing that I don’t need to do? Are other people doing things that work, and could we adapt them to work for us? Why do we measure this web stat instead of that one? What else can we measure? What’s next?

When you don’t have any hot deadlines or major challenges is a great time to take stock, especially if you’ve been in your job a while. Think about what’s changed outside your organization, and how you might need to adjust your daily activities accordingly. I’ve been with my current employer more than 8 years. My original job description didn’t say anything about social media, but you can bet if it was written today it would. What would be different in your job description?

Important: do NOT ask your boss these questions. Ask yourself. Feel free to ask colleagues at work or fellow communicators for input, but don’t expect them to give you all the answers. That defeats the purpose of the exercise: learning to think critically about your job, and adapting to changes and challenges as they arise.

I’m all for teamwork, but being a self-starter is not a team sport. You provide your own motivation and original ideas. You do the research, then take the pile of data and turn it into something meaningful: a flier, a report, a web page, a plan.

Stuck? Read something. Anything. Reading anything will do more to get the thought wheels turning than parking in front of the TV.  You might have noticed this in college, but when you study vastly different subjects at the same time, you start to find connections. Something you read for one class might impact the discussion in another. Something you read for fun might spur a new idea you can try at work. If nothing else, what you read will affect your writing–the more you read, the better.

Never stop learning, and keep those wheels turning!

Next time: Ask forgiveness, not permission