When you find yourself stuck in a rut and feel the need to shake things up, a little bit of discipline can go a long way. No one knows that better than former Navy SEAL commander Jocko Willink, who translated lessons from his regimented military training into best-selling self-help books geared toward individuals seeking ways to structure their lives and increase their own efficiency. In a 2017 interview with Business Insider, Willink shared the following five simple behavioral shifts that can rapidly lead to positive lifestyle changes.
1. The earlier you wake up, the more productive you’ll be.
Willink has a bit of bad news for those of us who love to stay up late and spend the morning hitting the Snooze button: waking up early results in higher productivity. Willink discovered during his SEAL training that getting out of bed at 4:30am prior to his bunkmates allowed him to “get a head start on everyone else that’s still sleeping [and] get productive time doing things [I needed] to do.” He also emphasized that waking up early shouldn’t result in a lack of sleep, encouraging anyone following his advice to adopt an earlier bedtime instead.
2. Getting your exercise gear prepared the night before makes it easier to get moving in the A.M.
If you’re not a natural “morning person”, adopting an A.M. fitness routine isn’t an easy task. However, Willink insists that starting your day with some form of physical exercise “gets your blood flowing and gets your mind in the game.” To avoid putting off your workout, Willink urges you to set your gear out before you go to bed, so it’ll be ready and waiting when you wake up.
3. Put together your daily to-do list the night before rather than waiting until morning.
Another way to dodge the pitfalls of procrastination involves making a to-do list for the next day before bedtime instead of waiting until morning. Willink insists that this tactic will give you a clear-sighted view of your goals and will allow you to formulate tomorrow’s plans in an organized manner. "Don't think in the morning. That's a big mistake that people make. They wake up in the morning and they start thinking. Don't think. Just execute the plan. The plan is the alarm clock goes off, you get up, you go work out. Get some,” Willink told Business Insider.
4. “Power naps” can give you valuable boosts of energy when you need them most.
Willink acknowledges that changing your sleep schedule to a go-to-bed-early-and-wake-up-early pattern can cause exhaustion throughout the day, especially if you’re not used to it yet. If you suddenly find yourself feeling sleepy in the afternoon, Willink recommends a quick 6-8 minute “power nap” to help you recharge. If possible, try elevating your legs above your head to reduce swelling in the feet and ankles often caused by sitting at a desk for prolonged periods of time.
5. Free food at work may seem like a great perk, but it doesn’t always work to your advantage.
A complimentary spread of morning bagels or lunchtime pizza often puts office workers in a good mood, but Willink warns that these edible gifts can sabotage a healthy eating plan. He encourages keeping your distance from office junk food and instead reaching for a nutritious snack if you feel peckish during the work day.