Articles

7 productivity lessons everyone can learn from the US Navy

Have you stopped checking email, turned off all notifications, and started saying no to unproductive meetings but still struggling to get ahead of your work? These seven productivity hacks from the U.S. Navy can help you be more efficient:


1. Have meetings standing up.

Photo: John F. Williams/US Navy

Prevent yourself and others from becoming too comfortable during short meetings. Sailors usually stand up instead of sit, since it tends to keep everyone alert and promotes quicker meetings.

2. Always keep study materials on hand.

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alan Gragg/US Navy

Find the time to study for your next certification between tasks by keeping your books within arms reach. Whether you are the CEO or an entry-level employee, you should keep a book or learning app on your phone for downtime. You can learn from the sailors' habit of carrying study materials during boot camp to learn their General Orders, the Sailor's Creed, the Navy song and more. Those who maintain the habit when they arrive at their duty station accelerate faster than those that don't.

3. Always work as a team.

Photo: Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique M. Lasco/US Navy

This is an obvious one, but it may not be so clear in a competitive environment. However, if you learn to work together, you can accomplish herculean tasks efficiently. Navy SEALs learn this lesson the hard way. During SEAL training, they are broken down into small boat crews and tasked with paddling several miles past the tough Coronado surf. They quickly learn that they must paddle in unison to be efficient.

4. Delegate, delegate, delegate.

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ian Carver/US Navy

The chain of command exists for a reason, so use it. Focus on your strengths and delegate the rest to others. This is not a new philosophy but people sometimes become too timid to enforce it. The Navy ensures a healthy chain of command structure by providing constant leadership training. Delegating what's appropriate to your subordinates improves your leadership while making you more productive at the same time.

5. Do easy tasks right away.

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paolo Bayas/US Navy

If it takes less than five minutes, do it now. A quick task is not worth adding to your "to do list" or delegating to another. By adopting this habit, you will clear a lot of tasks from your list and it also gives you the satisfaction of achievement. This habit is instilled in every sailor, from the most senior to the most junior. It is also a habit formed out of necessity because small tasks can easily turn into bigger ones for you and everyone else.

6. Mentor and evaluate.

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3d Class Michael Achterling/US Navy

Think of mentoring and evaluating your staff like maintaining a vehicle: If you don't follow up with your fluids and tire rotations, your vehicle will break down faster. The same is true for your staff. An evaluation a couple of times a year, or frequent career mentoring will help them take the proper steps for advancement, which in turn provides a qualified person to delegate to. It is mandatory in the Navy to have frequent performance evaluations throughout the year. Evaluations determine a sailor's knowledge and also determine whether he or she is ready for a promotion.

7. Most importantly, make your bed every morning.

Making your bed every morning will give you the satisfaction of accomplishing your first task of the day. It will encourage you to do another task followed by many more compounding into many tasks completed by the end of the day, according to Navy SEAL Adm. William H. McRaven. "Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can't do the little things right, you'll never be able to do the big things right." Hear it from McRaven, with this advice starting at 4:36: