10 Ways To Make Yourself More Productive

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Airmen from the 647th Logistics Readiness Squadron build combat delivery systems Feb. 25, 2015, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
Photo by Tech. Sgt. Aaron Oelrich

Successful people make an effort to keep their minds strong, their skills fresh, their bodies durable, and their sights focused on their goals. They are proactive and always on a path of discovering solutions to problems. They build and maintain resilience, always developing themselves while still being of service to others.


What separates the great from the mediocre? How do seemingly regular people become super successful? There are many theories and “secrets” to be considered. This is what I find irrefutable though: Success is a result of consistent choices and habits, which lead to optimal productivity. That said, here are 10 choices and habits of successful veterans that help them stay productive.

Related: 7 habits you need to transition to the civilian workforce »

1. Read a lot.

This is probably the most important and most common habit of successful people in general. Reading is more than fundamental, it's transformational. Even without the cash in your budget to buy a ton of books, you can still visit your local library or go hang out at a bookstore like Barnes & Noble for a few hours a week (which is where you’ll find me frequently).

2. Listen to podcasts.

When you're driving around town or running in the neighborhood, podcasts can serve like software updates for your brain. Whether active or passive listening, your mind will be enhanced and expanded much more than if you just listen to music.

3. Volunteer in your community.

Volunteering is almost a prerequisite to success. Many successful veterans tend to pick one or two organizations or causes to commit to, but do what works best for you. Volunteering is a great way to stay humble and connected to your community. It is also a way to keep serving after the military.

4. Exercise often.

Successful veterans continue consistent physical training beyond the uniform. It improves health, boosts confidence, decreases negative stress, and helps minimize the likelihood of injury and illness.

5. Devour Internet-based learning opportunities.

Freemium education — or education that is accessible for free, with money charged only for certain proprietary features --- is to be devoured like food samples at the grocery store. The selection is endless, with opportunities abound. Successful veterans learn things that are empowering as an employee, as a freelancer, or even as an employer, such as: search engine optimization, HTML coding, negotiating skills, Internet marketing, web analytics, and more.

6. Help other veterans.

This one here is almost second nature to each of us who have served. It's bred in our culture to have each other's backs. Successful veterans take this to the next level by finding ways to mentor and support fellow veterans in their civilian lives, be it through connecting them to jobs, business startup capital, or whatever else is helpful.

7. Escape the rat race.

Successful veterans routinely find a way to escape the day-to-day hustle and grind, in order to avoid burnout, to get reenergized, and to replenish their creativity. Some may play video games, or binge watch their favorite television shows. But successful people make it a habit to unplug and get out to do something like hike, camp, swim, surf, fish, hunt, snowboard, etc.

8. Find yourself a life coach or mentor.

Even the most accomplished athletes say that they owe much of their success to great coaches and mentors. The wisdom of others more experienced than ourselves is worth its weight in gold. Every successful veteran I know has a mentor or even a "panel" of advisors in their corner, guiding their steps, and sharing valuable insights along the way.

9. Get quality sleep.

Without quality sleep, your brain and vision gets foggy, your thinking is hindered, and your motor functions slow down. We're all pretty adept at operating efficiently when deprived of sleep, thanks to the military. But, running on fumes can only get us so far. Successful veterans go to bed at a reasonable time each day, and cut out all distractions such as the television, bright lights, etc., before they hit the pillow.

10. Attend meaningful events and network.

Dressing nice, showing up, and collecting business cards is not the kind of networking that successful veterans do. Instead, they're intentional about what type of events they attend, and are more focused on connecting with others through genuine conversation. Successful veterans give their time and talents at events for causes and organizations that they care deeply about. Connections and favorable outcomes are a natural result of this process.

You don't have to wonder about the "secret sauce" for success as a veteran. Applying at least some of the above strategies will prove fruitful and fulfilling in and of themselves. Judging from this list, success starts from within.

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