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Before you read on, let’s be clear: This article is not another Tim Ferriss wanna-be regurgitation about time management or some cheese 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 what you really are, but from a leadership perspective, understanding the real difference between how you should spend time at the office and outside of the office.

If your mind and work ethic turns on at 9 a.m. and shuts 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 another employee.

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

It’s taken me over ten 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 shows up and after everyone leaves the office .

Everyone knows what nine to five 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.

These are the kind of people that have the jersey but are perfectly fine with sitting on the bench. Leaders are the ones dying to play. And not only are they dying to play, they work as hard as they can to get there.

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It is easy to get caught up in “tasking” when you’ve already decided to shut your brain down at 5pm. 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 is time to clock out.

My nine to five 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. 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 9-5 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.”

5 a.m. to 9 a.m.

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

I read everything I can. I write these very articles 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 we are most productive and creative because the mental landscape is wide open.

Taking this opportunity and time to grow every single morning results in clear indication of the leaders in your workplace. These people are working damn hard to become the best at what they do. No shortcuts. No nonsense.

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5 p.m. to 9 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 a make-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 easiest indicator of those leaders who are successful and those go their entire life unknown, is their ability to discern what needs to be done between the hours of 9-5 and 5-9.

The freelancer or one man show company may not be able to relate as much, since there is no team to build. But even if you are a part of these groups, you should be practicing these habits so you prevent yourself from building an unhealthy team off the bat. Always be ready for what life throws at you next.

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

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