Kerry Anne Cassidy: Seven productivity habits for leaders

Productivity Habits for Leaders: 

Do you have a morning routine to get you going for the day?

Perhaps you have never thought of it that way, but we all have a morning routine or set of habits.

My morning routine is about getting up to have some quiet time to spend with God.  I like to read my bible, journal my thoughts, revisiting important memories, ideas, answers to prayer and listen to worship music. As I do this, God often has a word of encouragement for me, and I am able to hold onto this for my day.

On some mornings, it’s the call of a the bird song outside my window which speaks to my soul or thinking about my family and the intentional prayers I have for both Adrian and Clara which I speak over their lives which gets me started.  

However I focus my God-time, I find when I don’t spend this necessary time, I am not ready for my day.  I am not as “centred” and therefore find myself reacting rather than coming from my “inner space”. 

The importance of having daily rituals and habits has been well documented.  Ultra successful leaders all have their own personal productivity habits which follow a common theme.  

In this article, we look at 7 productivity habits for leaders that can make a huge difference to your productivity.  

In a follow-on article to this, we look at the productivity rituals that ultra-successful modern day heroes and heroines have shared with us to help inspire and motivate us.

My encouragement to you is to pick one or two ideas to start with – try them out over a 2-week period and then add to it as time goes on.  

The fun is that there is no wrong or right solutions.  

Trying new things out will stretch your brain and help you to focus on what you need right now in the journey you are taking to achieve your short-term business-specific goal.


Start Early

Most successful men and women have one thing in common: they start their day early as it gives them time to sit, think, and plan their day.

When you get up early, you are more calm, creative, and clear-headed.

As the day progresses, your energy levels starts going down which affects your productivity and you don’t perform as well.

Waking a few hours earlier has been linked to a slew of benefits.  Taken from let’s look at just four:

  1. Early birds are more proactive than evening people – and so they do well in business, says Christoph Randler, a biology professor at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany. To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, “the morning people are different from you and me” 
  1. "When it comes to business success, morning people hold the important cards," Randler told the Harvard Business Review of his research, some of which originally appeared in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology"They tend to get better grades in school, which gets them into better colleges, which then leads to better job opportunities.
  1. Morning people also anticipate problems and try to minimize them. They're proactive”Not that evening people are life's losers: They're smarter and more creative, and have a better sense of humour, other studies have shown. Source: 
  1. Waking up earlier also means your body is more in tune with the circadian rhythms of the earth (i.e. sunset and sunrise), which leads to deeper restorative sleep. I speak more about this shortly.  

Which brings me to my next tip which links beautifully to this one...


Keep the Same Morning Routine, Even on Weekends

Do you get up at 5 a.m. on Fridays? 

Do the same on Saturdays and Sundays. It’ll make waking up again on Monday morning easier.


Pace Yourself

How many of you read emails or take calls during your commutes, then go right to your desks where you move back and forth between projects and communications for hours at a time?

Sound like your day?

Well, the truth is we are not designed to work this way. Our bodies and minds follow a daily cycle called a circadian rhythm – “physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment”. (sunrise and sunset)


During the day, we cycle through ultradian rhythms. These are periods where we are more and less-focused.

The ideal rhythm is to work four or five 90-minute chunks throughout the day, with breaks in-between. 


A good practice is to schedule three important tasks a day that you can fit into these segments, and set a timer (not on your phone!) to manage your rhythm. Or if you are tuned-in to your body’s signals, just notice when you get restless, groggy or lose focus. That means it’s time for a 15-minute break.


Watch the video below which reinforces this message.



Touch Things Only Once

How many times have you opened a piece of regular mail—a bill perhaps—and then put it down only to deal with it again later? How often do you read an email, and then close it and leave it in your inbox to deal with later? Highly successful people try to “touch it once.” 

If it takes less than five or ten minutes—whatever it is—they deal with it right then and there. It reduces stress since it won’t be in the back of their mind, and is more efficient since they won’t have to re-read or evaluate the item again in the future.

Watch this short, simple technique that Dan Pink asks author of the book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen to hear how to make it work for you:


Watch Your Words!  “ I don’t vs I can’t”

In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers split 120 students in 2 groups. One group was trained to use “I can’t”, while the other was trained to use “I don’t”. The results were interesting:

  • The students who told themselves “I can’t eat X” chose to eat the chocolate candy bar 61% of the time. 
  • The students who told themselves “I don’t eat X” chose to eat the chocolate candy bars only 36% of the time. 
  • This simple change in terminology significantly improved the odds that each person would make a more healthy food choice.

Next time you need to avoid saying yes, say “I DON’T”.

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Take Naps

My personal experience to get the most out of my days in the office are 20 minute naps.   I go and lie on the bed with the curtains closed and door shut and set my alarm for 20 minutes. I notice that I am still “aware” of my environment so it’s a light sleep. But, when I “wake” I find that I am much more alert and am able to get productively through the rest of my day.

Just under 30 minutes will refresh you, without sending you into deep sleep mode. Any more than that and you may be at risk for an early death, according to a recent study.

Did you know? 

  1. Leonardo da Vinci took multiple naps a day and slept less at night.
  2. The French Emperor Napoleon was not shy about taking naps. He indulged daily.
  3. Though Thomas Edison was embarrassed about his napping habit, he also practiced his ritual daily.
  4. Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, used to boost her energy by napping before speaking engagements.
  5. Gene Autry, “the Singing Cowboy,” routinely took naps in his dressing room between performances.
  6. President John F. Kennedy ate his lunch in bed and then settled in for a nap—every day!
  7. Oil industrialist and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller napped every afternoon in his office.
  8. Winston Churchill’s afternoon nap was a non-negotiable. He believed it helped him get twice as much done each day.
  9. President Lyndon B. Johnson took a nap every afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in order to break his day up into “two shifts.”
  10. Though criticized for it, President Ronald Reagan famously took naps as well.

Source: 5 Reasons Why You Should Take a Nap Every Day — Michael Hyatt


Keep the Number of Choices You Make Each Day to a Minimum

Take a cue from President Barack Obama, who was quoted in a Vanity Fair interview:

“I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing because I have too many other decisions to make. You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

The reason why we want to minimize our decisions is due to what psychologists call decision fatigue. It’s the act of making exhausting our decisions, which prevents us our ability to make better decisions later on.


Obama takes it even further by receiving simple “decision memos” on his desk with three check boxes:

  • agree
  • disagree
  • let’s discuss 

Rather than expressing his decision through a complicated essay, this simple process speeds up the feedback loop to get things done faster.

Did you know? Most people are more easily distracted from noon to 4PM.

Source: Robert Matchock, an associate professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University.

Questions to Consider:

We have looked at 7 ways you can create some simple habits to build your “inside game” which I am famous for saying is the most crucial foundational aspect of becoming a good leader or manager.

So, whether its about:


Starting early or keeping the same morning rituals, even on weekends


Whether its pacing yourself using circadian rhythms and 90 minute chunks or deciding to touch tasks only once


Whether its watching our words, taking naps or keeping the number of choices you make each day to a minimum

There is sure to be just one of these ideas that resonate enough for you to choose and take some action on.

Remember, leadership and management is about getting a balance right between taking stock (which you have just done by listening to this short talk) and then deciding what ACTION to take as a result.  

Let me know which of these ideas you have decided to follow and leave a comment in the comment section as to why you have decided to try it out.

Have fun trying these out and I’ll,

See you at the top!

Kerry Anne

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