By Matthew Loux, criminal justice faculty member at American Military University
Every law enforcement officer must sustain mental sharpness and a high level of productivity at work. There are many opinions about ways to stay productive in the workplace, but very few address law enforcement officers specifically.
Here are five productivity tips that fit the lifestyle of officers, whether you are working the street or sitting at a desk.
Start a Routine
No matter which shift you are working, it is important to establish a routine to increase productivity. Your daily routine should start before you go to work. If you take the time to ensure your personal affairs are in order prior to coming to work, there will likely be less stress when you walk in the door of your department.
Make it a habit of getting to work early so your day does not start as a race against the clock. Once you are at work, develop a routine that works for you. Each shift usually starts with a briefing and it is helpful to write down the key items discussed. Always check your patrol or detective vehicle for damage, for items left by the prior shift, and to make sure it is fully operational.
As you work to establish your own routine, observe what other officers do and see if their approaches can be effective for you. We can all learn from one another.
Get Plenty of Rest
It has been proven that proper rest has many health advantages, including increasing brain function, revitalizing blood vessels, and stimulating the heart. Being well rested lowers the risk of heart disease and obesity, common health ailments among law enforcement officers. Proper rest also contributes to an increase in productivity, better reaction time, and reducing mistakes.
Individuals should be getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night (or day, if you are working late shifts). Establish a sleep pattern that works for your shifts and family life. If you work midnights and sleep during the day, invest in blackout shades, use music to drown out the daily noise, or find another method that works for you.
Improve Your Physical Fitness
Physical fitness has several benefits. Working out regularly increases energy levels, blood flow, and alertness and has many other benefits. Fitness routines also help to reduce illnesses and improve mental health. Seek the advice of a physician before starting any program, but it is important to start.
Police officers tend to drink caffeinated drinks and eat on the go and at irregular times. As part of your fitness program, pack healthy snacks for your patrol car or to keep at your desk. Increased physical fitness combined with healthy eating can also reduce injuries, which benefits you and the department.
Work to Stay Organized
Work hard to stay organized in your life. Your patrol car bag should include everything you need for the shift and be stored in a compartment that is easily accessible. Keep some type of planner, whether a traditional calendar/day planner or an app on your smartphone. Make sure you keep your schedule updated to include overtime shifts, off-duty jobs, family obligations, doctor appointments, meetings, etc.
My family goes over our calendar at the beginning of each week so each person can add events for that week. It helps everyone when schedules are coordinated. After all, you do not want to miss the big game or dance recital.
Reduce the Distraction of Emails
Many people get inundated with emails. I developed a system of reducing emails that works with Outlook and Gmail. I recommend making folders or categories and creating a rule so incoming emails bypass your inbox and are automatically placed in the proper folder. For example, if you receive emails from an organization that you belong to, you can create a rule that places all those emails in a folder labeled with that organization’s name.
Be careful that you do not create a rule that sends important emails that need to be handled immediately to a folder. I currently use a Chrome extension called ActiveInbox for Gmail that helps me organize my emails, creates tasks, and allows for easier follow-up.
In addition, I also create folders for emails that I have read and acted upon. By doing so, I know where those emails live in case I need to access them later. If you get your emails under control, it makes life much easier.
These are five of my favorite productivity tips that have helped me to stay focused, organized, in better shape, and on top of my game. I challenge everyone to incorporate these concepts to improve your work and family life. Please let me know if you use any of these concepts or if you have further productivity tips to share by commenting below.
About the Author: Matt Loux has been in law enforcement for more than 20 years and has a background in fraud, criminal investigation, as well as hospital, school, and network security. Matt has researched and studied law enforcement and security best practices for the past 10 years.