I’ve been in the military my entire adult life so whether I wanted to be or not: I’m an early riser. Over time I came to appreciate the value of using that morning time to make my day productive. In their 1980’s Army recruiting commercials the Army boasted “we do more before 9 am than most people do all day.” Of course when you get up early enough, there’s time!
These are tips every military leader from sergeant to general learns for setting themselves and their organizations up for a productive day. There’s a reason why productive military leaders have a morning routine: it works! You don’t have to be in the military to learn from the wisdom of sergeants. Read on:
1. “If you ain’t early, you’re late.”
Give yourself plenty of time between wake up and departure for work. The snooze button is powerful, but that extra 30 or 40 minutes of snoozing doesn’t really help you. In fact, your snooze button is evil. In those two hours you’ll have time to do the things on the rest of the list. And let’s face it, rolling out of bed and racing to the door will mean you’re more likely to forget something than if y0u just got out of bed to begin with.
2. Do Some “PT”
“PT” in military jargon is “Physical Training,” or what the rest of us call “working out.” I’ve had a few jobs in the military where I could organize my schedule so I could PT in the afternoon, but those are rare. Like most people if I don’t spend some time in the morning working out there’s very little chance I’m going to make it to the gym later on in the day. On top of that, there’s plenty of good science about the health benefits of working out in the morning! You’ll certainly have more productive energy all day if you get your blood going!
3. Eat a Decent Breakfast
No, this is not another “most important meal of the day” lecture, but it’s important to get your body going with some fresh energy. I usually eat a light breakfast on workdays and save the carb-overload pancakes for the weekend. The take-away however, is eat something to get your blood sugar up and your mind operating. Skipping breakfast is a recipe for a morning with a short temper and probably overeating at lunch…which could lead to that afternoon crash. Stay productive with a decent breakfast.
4. Catch Up on What’s Up – The Morning “Intel Brief”
Whether its your business, your family, or the general state of the world, you can’t be productive if you start the workday in the dark. Listen to the news, read the paper, talk to your spouse, ask your kids what their day holds, whatever: just don’t let the morning commute start without your morning intelligence brief. If you do, you’re more likely to miss an opportunity–personal or professional–than if you had spent a little time invested in “intelligence gathering.”
5. Plan For The Day
A productive day doesn’t just “happen,” it’s carefully planned and executed. In the military we publish the “plan for the day” or an “operations order,” but your plan need not be so formal. General Norman Schwarzkopf explained in his book, It Doesn’t Take A Hero, about a system he invented following the crash of a helicopter when he was a commander. He began keeping an index card with a list of things that could go wrong that day on one side, and what could go right on the other. My own system is to review my calendar and my boss’ calendars for the day and try to anticipate what will consume my time that day. Whatever your system, just make a plan and be prepared!
These five simple military leaders’ strategies will help you be productive each day.