Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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8 Habits Leaders Can Practice to Stay Focused

Habits for increased focus and productivity. Incorporate these habits into your regular routines to stay focused on what is most important.


  1. Plan a trip. It turns out that even thinking about a vacation is healthy. When people plan a trip, they envision the activities, the places they visit, and even the views. That planning helps our brains relax as though we were there. Planning is like a mini vacation for the mind. As leaders, encourage people to schedule vacation time, plan the vacation, and take the vacation.


  1. Care for health. Encourage your teams to stay fit with good nutrition, lots of water, exercise, and restful sleep. It sounds basic, but many of us sacrifice our health when we get busy with work. Make sure it is easy for your teams to be healthy at work. Some workplaces have free filtered or bottled water available, and others bring in health lunches for special occasions.


  1. Show pride in the workplace. I recently watched a CEO stop to pick up trash on his way to the office in the morning. It was a windy day, and a plastic bag and papers had blown across the grass. He walked over and took it to the trash. “Everything counts” he smiled. He is right. He sent the example that everyone is responsible for the appearance of where we work, and everyone’s actions matter. He instilled pride in the organization by being willing to do what was needed at that moment.


  1. Clear the clutter. I struggle with managing clutter, because I work in piles of projects, and my piles expand to fill the space I have. Every week, I schedule cleaning the workspace. I take everything off the desk and then file it, toss it, or organize it. It is easier to be productive and switch gears when my workspace is neat, clean, and organized.


  1. Monitor team self-talk. Speak kindly to yourself and request that your team members do the same. Use encouraging words. One of my managers used this phrase to overcome negative language in the workplace toward ourselves. She said, “if you would not say the words you are thinking to your best friend, you should not be using those words toward yourself.”


  1. Clarify your vision. Spend team-time brainstorming about what you want to accomplish and how you want to put that into action. Get the team together to figure out what everyone is thinking and capture innovative ideas. Ask your team what you want your legacy to be and craft the vision based on where you want to go.


  1. Engage in meaningful activities. Devote your time and energy to projects that matter as a team. Use your specialized skills to help your community. Some people wonder how they can promote teamwork while serving the community. Arete, an architectural firm in Sheridan, Wyoming just built, as teams, dog houses that are raffled off to benefit _____.


  1. Stay positive. Peter B Stark, author of the amazing leadership book, The Competent Leader says, “As leaders we don’t have the luxury of negative thinking.” As leaders, it is our responsibility to search for the positive aspects and possibilities of every situation. We must look for the opportunities the challenges bring and find ways to make a tough situation better.





  1. Laura

    Great blog, Mary! Thanks for reinforcing my need for a vacay. Now back to work!

    • Mary Kelly

      You should absolutely have a vacation! It gives us all something to look forward to! Buy the tickets! Make the plans! And then post pictures! We all want to celebrate with you! Big hugs to you!

  2. Tracy Elazab

    Excellent advice! I’ve had a habit for 20+ years of wiping down my desk with disinfectant wipes on Friday night before I left the office. I was cleaning up the coffee rings & remnants of the lunches I ate at my desk throughout the week, but one boss looked at it as tidying up the work week in preparation of tackling the next. I realized he was right…a part of the process was filing away completed work and preparing the following week’s to-do list.

    • Mary Kelly

      Oh my goodness this totally sounds like some thing I would do! I’m right there with you!

  3. Bill Alexander

    Great article! I especially liked point #8. I tell my associates that there is an opportunity in every challenge, and if you look hard enough, you’ll find it. Sometimes it’s an opportunity to find out just how much BS you can put up with, but that’s usually only a very small percent of the time – by far most of the “opportunities” are much, much better, and worth capitlizing on! Keep on delivering the authentic, useful coaching ideas – we’re out here reading!

    • Mary Kelly

      Thank you so much for your note. Yes, I got that nugget of wisdom from Peter Stark! “Leaders don’t have the luxury of being negative.” And I have to remind myself of that when flights get cancelled, people get sick, or when things don’t turn out the way we intended. I appreciate you! Have a great week!


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