The Special Forces loves the morning. Special Forces are the U.S. Army’s go-to military force of small, 12-person teams of experts that can parachute, mountain climb, train a 700-person foreign military force or attack a strategic target.
It was always my dream to become a Special Force Officer, so when I was a Junior Officer at the 101st Airborne Division, The Screaming Eagles at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, I trained extra-hard to be a Special Forces soldier. I began my first workout of the day at 4am before starting my next one with the unit at 6:30am. Even at 4am, I would still regularly run into Special Forces soldiers walking 12 miles with backpacks to go and shoot or preparing for a parachute exercise. Throughout my military career, the effective use of a planned, productive and efficient morning was critical to accomplish a lot during the day.
The mornings are a great time to maximize your time and begin every day off with purpose, vigor and a great mindset. Follow these five military traditions to start every day off right:
- Focus on preparing to win under the worst conditions. Wake up knowing that your competitors are already awake and they want to make you fail. Job #1 in the U.S. Army Special Forces is to be successful. The Special Forces has a constant focus on difficult, practical and challenging training that enables success in future battles and deployments. Critical to good training and successful operations is understanding that no matter the physical conditions, the mission must be accomplished and at the end of the mission the entire team needs to be standing with you. When your team understands that, no matter what, the mission must be accomplished then that leads to great leadership, great training, great teamwork, great standards, and great teaching because everyone wants the other person and the team to be successful. The daily focus on preparation, training, and teaching to be successful is a central, guiding ethic of world class organizations.
- Wake up early with a plan from the night before. Every person in the military carries and small notebook and pen to keep a “to do” list of the most important activities. During field exercise and combat deployments, the notebook is with you everywhere. When I was in Iraq and Bosnia, I kept my notebook right next to my cot so I could write down the most important things to do the next day. I would always wake up between 4:00 and 4:30am. Waking up before everyone else gives you a sense of calm and planning before most people start their day. Having a plan from the night before means that you start the day immediately working on your most important priorities.
- Do some form of invigorating physical exercise. Starting your day with physical fitness ensures that your first focus off the day is on your own wellbeing. This is vital for leaders who often neglect their own personal care and then end up reducing their own level of performance. In addition, the performance of exercise before eating helps burn more calories and help generate endorphins that boost your mood throughout the day. Finally, exercise to really sweat because whether it is running, weights, swimming, or the step mill, completing a challenging exercise regimen first thing in the day signals a strong sense of accomplishment before your work day even starts.
- Read the daily “intelligence” report. A tradition of the deployed military is reading the morning intelligence report that describes the enemy, weather, politics, local economy and enemy planned activities. This tradition is a great focus to ensure that you understand all of the important aspects of the world and operating environment around you that influence your decision making. More importantly, the focus on the operating environment and competition represents seeking information of those elements that can both hinder and help your strategy. For most industries, reading the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Washington Post, personalized Google Alerts, and daily industry alerts are great ways to construct your own daily intelligence report.
- Visit in person – don’t email/text. A tradition I love from the Army is how the Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO), the Sergeants that make everything happen, go around, greet, and talk with every soldier at the start of the day. For leaders, this is a vital daily lesson that the most important assets of your team are not machinery, algorithms, data, money in the bank, or even your own customers, but your employees, the people standing before you. This is a task that cannot be accomplished with email or texting. No matter where we were in the world, my Team Sergeant would make sure to walk around, check on important matters, and speak to everyone. It requires making a physical effort to create physical contact, conversation, and eye contact to let people know every day that you value, appreciate, and understand their contributions.
Start your day off like the Special Forces for a successful start to a significant day. Wake early with a plan, exercise, stay updated on the latest competitive information, visit your team in person, and focus on the hardest aspects of execution and training to ensure success. iBi
Chad Storlie is an adjunct professor of marketing at Creighton University, author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and Battlefield to Business Success, and retired U.S. Army Special Forces Officer and Iraq combat veteran.