Ron Gibori

Why it matters for you and everyone else in the workplace.

Before you read on, let’s be clear: This article is not another Tim Ferriss wannabe regurgitation about time management or some cheesy cliche about the “early bird catches the worm.”

I’m not talking about filling your calendar to the brim to make yourself look busier than you really are, but rather, from a leadership perspective, understanding the real difference between how you should spend time at the office and how you should spend it outside the office.

If your mind and work ethic turn on at 9 a.m. and shut off at 5 p.m., you’ll be another cart-pushing joe. Truly remarkable teams are made up of people who decide they want to be leaders and not just employees.

The decision to become a leader is exemplified in distinct choices made during the times of 9 to 5 and 5 to 9.

It’s taken me more than 10 years of managing and building businesses to realize that the real strength and resilience — not to mention creativity and energy — of a leader happens before anyone else has shown up at the office and after everyone else has left.

Everyone knows what 9 to 5 is. Meetings, taking care of clients, managing the office — it’s not particularly hard work. It is the kind of work that you’re expected to do. Essentially, it’s the bare minimum for maintaining and sustaining your term of employment.

People who do not extend themselves beyond the 9 to 5 have the jersey, but they are perfectly fine with sitting on the bench. Leaders, on the other hand, are dying to play. And not only are they dying to play, but they also work as hard as they can to get there.

It is easy to get caught up in “tasking” when you’ve already decided to shut your brain down at 5 p.m. This is why I see people get burnt out, bored, or tired during the day at work. There is no desire to get better. Just a lot of cart pushing until it’s time to clock out.

My 9 to 5 isn’t my time to be creative or to work on whatever tasks I have to accomplish.

It’s the time I have to give freely to help my team with their challenges, and cultivate their talents. It’s also a good time to be available for my clients to answer questions, jump on new opportunities, and help with the unexpected requests.

Organization lies within the people who spend their 9 to 5 making things work for themselves. These are often managers in the middle, but getting to the top requires these very people to ask themselves, “What can I be doing to help grow and develop my team?”

We call this “leading up.”

Before 9 a.m.

At 4:30 a.m., my alarm goes off. I take a shower. Eat breakfast. And then I get started.

I read everything I can. I write articles like this one you’re reading. I exercise mental creativity.

In the morning, when the day is brand new, there is nothing that has filled my head in any detrimental way. It’s the time of the day when I am most productive and creative because the mental landscape is wide open.

Those who take the opportunity and time to grow every single morning are the clear leaders in your workplace. These people are working damn hard to become the best at what they do. No shortcuts. No nonsense.

After 5 p.m.

Say yes to everything. Show up early. Introduce yourself to everyone. It’s that simple.

Show up to every conference, go out to drinks with your friends in the industry, engage, and be active in the community.

Life is all about who you know. And I can tell you that you won’t get to know anyone if you aren’t out and about. You never know when you’ll cross paths with the right people.

Hustle, hustle, hustle. We are made up of our choices.

Every day, you have the choice to wake up and be damn good at what you do, and you also have the choice to make it by on the bare minimum. In my experience, the best indicator of a successful leader is the ability to discern what needs to be done from 9 to 5 and what needs to be done from 5 to 9.

Freelancers and those who work alone may not relate strongly to this perspective, since they have no team to build. But even then, practicing these habits now will help prevent you from building an unhealthy team when that becomes necessary. Always be ready for what life throws at you next.

In essence, it’s this simple: Nine to 5 is for team growth. Five to 9 is for personal growth.

Published on Inc.Magazine