This is Part II of the “168-Hour” series addressing how leaders spend their available 168 hours per week to grow and develop. You can begin this series with Part I, here.
By Josh Bowen
This list has taken me eight years to develop. I remember in 2012 as a junior Army staff officer, my boss (battalion XO) making a casual recommendation that I should try and read a professional publication like an engineer magazine once or twice a week. That is my first ever recollection of someone proposing a personal leader development program to me. However, it didn’t resonate back then.
Then, as a company commander in 2015 during a commanders’ lunch with my brigade commander, he mentioned a blog written by Joe Byerly (then a field grade staff officer in our brigade) called From the Green Notebook, which was a creative way to engage in and contribute to Army professional development. I read every post on that blog within a week. It opened my eyes to the extensive resources available across numerous platforms to help me grow as a leader. Finally, I was hooked.
So, over eight years since becoming aware of the need to take responsibility for my development as a leader, I’ve created a personal program that is effective for me. Though this program is well refined to meet my personal needs, it is not perfect. I am always looking for ways to refine and innovate my methods to maximize my “leader horizon.”
Priorities Disclaimer. My conceptualization of leader development transcends the common view of one’s leadership effectiveness within the workplace and with those they professionally interact with; leadership extends to my roles as a Christian, husband, and future father. At the end of the week, leader development is not the most important way I spend my time. I carefully balance that to ensure I am growing as a Christian and husband, and daily spending quality time with my wife, which I argue are all more important. I encourage readers to ensure that your own 168-hour time management is aligned with your priorities and roles in life.
Here are the six ways that I keep growing and learning as a leader:
Reading (6 hours/week). I highly value the impact that reading has on me as a leader. I aim to read at least 30 minutes per day. I also listen to audiobooks during mindless activities such as running, cleaning dishes and other chores around the house, walking the dog, driving, and so on. I prefer to restrict my audiobooks to historical and fiction novels. My complete reading program is not solely dedicated to traditional “leader development.” I also commit to reading books to develop as a Christian, husband, future father, and recreational historian. I balance my reading between these five personal priorities.
Running (11 hours/week). Running is my favorite personal hobby and accomplishes much more for me beyond physical development. I usually run 10-12 hours a week and running is a natural reflective activity for me. On 90% of my runs, I am listening to an audiobook or engaging in deep reflection. During reflection, I replay recent experiences, try to make sense of them, and work to make connections between seemingly unrelated information. Following a “reflective” run, I usually record a couple insights, lessons, or ideas relating to a variety of areas in my life. I maintain my reflective thoughts on a series of Word documents on the Dropbox app that are segregated by applicable areas of my life.
Article & Blog Reading (3 hours/week). There is an enormous pool of great journal and blog content online. On 3×5 Leadership, I list out recommended resources that I keep updated and relevant. I also subscribe to Harvard Business Review, which is a more creative leader development tool for me outside of normal Army boundaries, as well as several military engineer publications. Of most benefit, I use Twitter as a source of reading material, being highly selective in who I follow to capture the most valuable content possible. Finally, the Pocket app is an effective tool to keep a list of what I need to read. Synced between multiple computers and my phone, I use this application to “bookmark” pages I want to come back to if I don’t have time to read it. It turns into my personal “to-read” article and blog list.
Reflective writing (3 hours/week). Transcribing reflective thoughts onto paper is critical for development as a leader. It allows me to remember my ideas later down the road so I can put those ideas into action. As I stated in the 3×5 Leadership 1-year anniversary post, blogging is a form of reflective writing for me. I am also currently exploring other journaling methods to maximize learning from reflection; I am always looking to refine my reflection methods, including reflective writing, in order to maximize leader learning and growth from my experiences.
Podcasts (3 hours/week). In addition to listening to audiobooks, I recently started listening to one to two podcast a day. You can find my current podcast recommendation list on the 3×5 Leadership Resources page.
Peer coaching (4 hours/week). I use close peers that I respect to help make sense of shared experiences by talking through them, sharing personal thoughts, and listening to their ideas. My peers often have valuable insights that I did not realize on my own. This is especially relevant to my current season of life as I am engaged in a graduate program in social-organizational psychology. Nearly all of the content I am learning is highly applicable to my development as a leader and it is helpful to discuss the content with others to make meaning of it all. You can read more about peer coaching HERE.
Of my available 168 hours in a week, I generally commit around 30 hours toward my personal leader development. This time commitment is not merely by chance; having it constitute such a sizeable portion of my available 168 is a deliberate choice every week.
Leverage the times that are available to you and that you are most productive. For example, since I am currently not in an Army operational unit, I am able to use early mornings (4 to 6 AM) to blog. If you are serving in a high operational tempo unit, consider using times to pause for dedicated personal development such as during breakfast (between PT and first call) and lunch; instead of working through those meals, use them to pause and read a book or articles/blogs, to reflect and write, or engage in peer coach-style conversations.
Josh Bowen is the author of the 3×5 Leadership blog. He is passionate about leadership and helping others become leader developers in every role in their life. He is an Army Engineer officer and currently a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University studying social-organizational psychology and leadership. Following this degree program, he will serve as a Tactical Officer of a Cadet company at USMA. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter. Josh’s thoughts are his own and do not reflect that of the USMA or the US Army.
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