Much of what you read about leadership – and frankly what we teach leaders across the globe at TakingPoint Leadership – focuses on the fundamental pillars of leading people and teams within the organization. But what about the person behind the shield? How does personal development and wellness influence the ability to effectively engage others in giving more of their time, talent, and energy for driving mission success?
Here are ten, simple but highly impactful, ways to be a dramatically more productive leader – for yourself and others:
1 – Engage in daily fitness and wellness practices
Not only do people gain huge health benefits when they exercise, but, according to our research, executives who are physically fit are also considered to be more effective leaders than those who aren’t. We consistently see leaders who exercise regularly as being rated significantly higher by their bosses, peers, and direct reports on their leadership effectiveness than those who don’t. Time invested in regular exercise, even if it means spending less time at work, is correlated with higher ratings of leadership effectiveness. It seems that a healthy lifestyle can help executives better cope with the stresses and demands of their positions, ultimately increasing their leadership effectiveness. Who knew?!
2 – Write it down – every task, every commitment
Whatever your typical goal-setting or organization process entails, vast amounts of research from Harvard, Yale, and other similarly reputable institutions suggest that writing down and formally documenting your To-Do’s increases the likelihood of mission success. Why? Because writing your priorities down leaves little room for interpretation, forces specificity, and – according to neuropsychologists – people have much better recall for information they’ve created themselves and written down that something they’ve simply read or verbalized.
3 – Plan for tomorrow today – plan your dive, dive your plan
Ok, you may be asking what diving has to do with any of this. In Navy SEAL training, we spend days, weeks, and months (over the years) in combat dive training. In the early stages, students will meticulously plan their dive routes and timing, only to second guess the plan after being submerged in pitch black water for hours on end. Strategic planning obviously goes hand-in-hand with effective leadership, but leaders who take a formal approach to planning in both their personal and professional lives trend towards achieving more of the goals they set for themselves and their teams. Oh, and don’t forget to document (write down) every aspect of your mission plans.
4 – Do your most dreaded tasks first
I touch on this critical productivity tip in my new bestselling book, Embrace the Suck: The Navy SEAL Way to An Extraordinary Life. We tend to push the things we despise further back on our To-Do lists. This is normal. But the more we get comfortable being uncomfortable, the broader that comfort zone becomes, paving way for greater fortitude and the ability to swiftly tackle tasks we don’t care for. So frontload those lame but important activities such as waiting on hold with the IRS, having difficult conversations, dealing with the upset client, or filling out paperwork for business loans. Just get it done!
5 – Eat clean and hydrate often
In conjunction with tip number one, wellness is imperative for creativity, innovation, adaptability, maintaining a clear mind, making sound decisions, and having the energy to lead during times of change. There is almost endless advice on what a proper diet entails, so do the research and find what works best for you. But as The North Face extreme athlete team nutritionist once told me: Stop eating and drinking the stuff that makes you feel like garbage (he used a different word), and keep eating the things that make you feel great. So simple!
6 – Have a consistent sleep routine
This seems obviously and plays into the mental and physical wellness principle. Most highly effective leaders I know, maintain a consistent sleep routine (when possible) seven days a week. That routine usually involves going to bed at a reasonable hour and getting up early to crush the day. But as managers and executives, we’re busy, we travel, and our schedules can change in a moment’s notice. So, adapt as needed but maintain consistency when you can.
7 – Have balance in work-life integration
Notice I didn’t say “work-life balance”. Due to COVID, this integration has become far more intimate than ever before. Great leaders don’t sacrifice their personal life for business achievement. They plan accordingly and make time for all of the important elements of their lives including relationships, family, fitness, hobbies, learning, and giving back. See below.
8 – Learn something new every day
I was recently listening to a podcast where the theme of the episode was the difference between millionaires and billionaires. Now, while most of us will never be billionaires, one specific tip stood out. Make the time (ten of fifteen minutes even) to learn something new every day. And not necessarily knowledge directly associated with your currently personal and professional interests. It was stated during the interview, even when you’re asking yourself “why the heck am I learning this right now”, that over time the most random puzzle pieces can come together opening the door to new opportunities or ways of thinking you never imagined.
9 – Do something hard every day
This is actually the title – using slightly more salty vernacular – of one of the chapters in my new book. An ideology I borrowed from friend and former teammate, retired Navy SEAL David Goggins. In a similar fashion to the tip of doing your most dreaded tasks first, finding one way each day to push the boundaries of your comfort zone (physically, mentally, emotionally) is paramount for growth and development. That could mean working out harder, tackling a leadership challenge head on, or spending time on a skill you want to develop. Make it part of your daily routine.
10 – Give back and help others
If we as leaders aren’t attempting to make the world a better place than we found it, we are missing one of the biggest opportunities we have. And one of the most important burdens of command. And selfishly, altruism has a direct impact on our own fulfillment, mental health, and satisfaction. Its very difficult to live an authentic life of meaning without finding ways to give more of our time and money to causes greater than ourselves. So make sure to squeeze some time into that already packed To-Do list for giving back. You will not regret it!
That’s all for now. Go get it done!