by Tom Catalini

4 ways IT leaders can get each day off to a strategic start

Feb 24, 2017
IT LeadershipIT Skills

Give yourself a tremendous mental boost and real strategic advantage by starting your day off right. Use these four simple steps. Find inspiration to create your own additional steps.

If you aren’t grasping control at daybreak, you may be setting up your entire day to be all about reacting rather than leading.

Let’s face it, the odds are stacked against you. Technology never sleeps. People who depend on technology use it around the clock. And everything is changing all the time.

As an IT Leader, you face a continuous stream of new demands, new threats and new opportunities.

That’s what makes the job exciting. But also what makes it difficult to manage, particularly for leaders. Even if you have a crack team, the best vendors, and robust systems.

One way to gain an advantage is to exert control right out of the gate, by taking control of yourself first. After all, if the leader isn’t in great shape for the day, the team is going to be limited.

The morning is the time when you have the most leverage. Before you delve into the fray, you can be strategic about your long-term goals, your energy levels, and fundamental needs like your health.

A morning routine can help you do all of that.

The secret formula

There is not a single secret formula that works for everyone. But many highly successful leaders share common elements that you can co-opt for your own ritual.

Let’s look at four that show up very often.

1. Begin with quiet time

This may be the simplest, hardest, and most powerful element. Whether you meditate, pray, reflect, or just sit quietly, most morning routines include some sort of quiet time.

This can be immensely powerful, even if done for just 5 or 10 minutes. It is so rare in our hectic days that we take a few minutes to simply be still. This is a great way to start your ritual.

How much better could you lead if you gave yourself some time each day for strategic rest?

2. Always be reading and learning

Think about all the books, articles, and blogs you want to read. There’s a lot to keep up with in the world of tech. Rather than feel bad that you never have the time to study these materials, make a point to chip away at it every day.

It’s empowering to start your day knowing that you made progress toward your reading goals. Even 10 minutes goes a long way. At that rate you might finish the average business book in about two weeks.

How much better would your thinking be if you read 24 books a year? (or even half that many.)

3. Take care of yourself with exercise

A short stretching, cardio, or strength routine can go a long way toward boosting your energy in the morning, something that can clearly benefit your entire day. Done consistently over time, you can also make real progress toward improving your overall health.

How much better could you lead if you were physically in better shape, with more stamina, energy, and drive?

4. Eat a healthy breakfast

We don’t often think about food strategically, but I think this is maybe one of the most important things IT leaders can do in the morning. Starting your day with healthy fuel has many benefits. It’s the time you have perhaps the most control over what you eat, which can offset some of the rushed meals and less-than-ideal choices that come with busy days or social lunches and dinners.

How much better could you lead if you fueled yourself with healthy food every single day rather than settling for whatever is available (or skipping breakfast altogether)?

Now what if you put that all together?

Putting it all together

If you started each day with a small dose of quiet time, reading, exercise, and healthy food, you would be off to a great start.

You would help to establish a more settled frame of mind. You would learn a little something. You would physically create some energy. And you would have hedged your eating bet in your favor before you even leave the house.

The most important thing, however, may be the overall mental boost you can get from starting your day strategically. From starting your day with specific actions aimed at long-term goals. From knowing that you have made real accomplishments before you leave the house and get into the fray of the day.

Done consistently over time, this mindset shift will begin to inform more and more of your work. Which can bring you to new levels of success.

Your morning routine can be anything you want. The elements above are just some of the most common ones and the ones I tend to favor. But you can (and should) design your own routine.

The elements are less important than the overall approach. The important thing is to be setting aside time to intentionally work toward long-term goals on a daily basis. That is what will have a powerful impact on your mornings, your days, and your work.