I've often said that most things that are important to me in life I learned in the Army. I wasn't a lifer and only did one hitch. Army lessons are learned for life (or death, if you're in combat), are drilled into your psyche.
Do you know an officer who always looks disheveled and doesn't project the professional appearance we seek in this profession? No names, please. This officer must be reminded to shine his shoes or clean her firearm. The officer's entire operation is often a wreck. What's wrong? The officer lacks discipline, which comes from proper routines that make the tradition of preparation and creating pride.
When you're a private in the Army's Military Police Corps, there's not much to do around the barracks on Sunday afternoon. You may have blown your spending money the night before, and realize you have formation at some ungodly time, such as "O'dark 30." You won't have time to do anything but get yourself up and get to it. You must be ready.
My Sunday afternoons involved shining Corcoran jump boots, starching uniforms for the week, shining brass, and cleaning equipment. You did it telling stories of the prior night's adventures and getting ready to face the week. Police work is no different. The day before you start a shift rotation should be spent preparing.
I no longer live in barracks, and life is better than it was then. Every Sunday afternoon I still have my ritual — uniform, boots, brass, and equipment. After this many years, I have it down to a fine art.
We don't have to iron our uniforms today, because most are "wash and wear" or dry-cleaned. Just take them out of the closet or locker, and place all the devices on the shirt. Footwear can be factory shiny shoes or boots that require polish. Get the devices for the uniform (such as shield, name tags, ribbons, and collar brass) shiny and in place. Equipment is checked and ready for application and use. I'm the guy who could wear out a firearm by over cleaning it, but it hasn't happened yet.
I'm emphasizing the following point — manage your time, so you can maximize your performance. Learn to manage the little things, which are the foundation for more important things in life. Preparation for duty equates to pride in yourself and your performance. Preparation sends the message that you're a professional and a force to be reckoned with.
Criminals often size up an officer before deciding whether to attack. When you send a message that you're a prepared professional, you may avoid a street fight and never know it. So before you start a shift schedule, sit down with a cup of coffee, get out the polish and start your own tradition. Hooah!