#1 Missing Link in Your Day

Differences between ze French and ze Germans are nothing new. They’ve been at war, literally and philosophically, for centuries, long before the Great War or even the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Julius Caeser noted the rivalry between the Gauls and the Germanic tribes in 49 BC. So distinct are the two cultures that many of their most famous authors even take a different approach to using the #1 missing link to success.

For proof we turn to two authors profiled in Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals. Let’s start with the French author of one of the most influential novels ever written. We’ll compare his approach to work against a German with a militant mindset towards writing. In the end, however, we’ll find that no matter how great the differences between the two cultures were in using the missing link, that this secret was an essential component of their success, and it will be for you, too.

The Frenchman was Gustave Flaubert. His masterpiece, Madame Bovary. was published in 1857. The novel was originally deemed obscene by the French courts, but became an instant bestseller when it was released, due in part to its notoriety.

Flaubert followed a strict schedule that allowed him to carve out a few hours of secluded writing each night. He was not early to rise, and when he did get up at 10am, he did everything we tell you not to do. First, he read letters (the equivalent of checking email today), and then caught up with his mother on the latest gossip (the equivalent of texting). He followed that with a bath, a late breakfast, and a walk. At 1pm he tutored his niece, read for the remainder of the afternoon, ate dinner and socialized. Finally Flaubert got to writing at 9 or 10pm.

His book progressed at a snail’s pace. Flaubert often finished only two pages per week because he was a notorious perfectionist and claimed always to be searching for le mot juste (“the precise word”). It was five long years until he finished Madame Bovary, and he described his existence as an “austere life, stripped of all external pleasure”, although he also admitted, “I love my work with a love that is frantic and perverted”. Despite his self-induced drama, Flaubert wrote years later, “work is still the best way of escaping from life!”

Compare Flaubert’s approach to the militant 20th century German novelist, Thomas Mann. “Mann was always awake by 8:00 A.M.“, Currey wrote in his profile of the 1929 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate, “After getting out of bed, he drank a cup of coffee with his wife, took a bath, and dressed. Breakfast, again with his wife was at 8:30. Then, at 9:00, Mann closed the door to his study, making himself unavailable for visitors, telephone calls, or family. The children were strictly forbidden to to make any noise between 9:00 and noon, Mann’s prime writing hours.

Mann’s tight, military-like schedule and discipline is akin to the Early to Rise approach. He worked when his mind was the freshest, and we believe this is the best system for most people.

But no matter when you work, there is one missing link that must be put in your day.

It’s a simple item that, when included in your life, will allow you to complete your to-do list. But if it is missing, it’s impossible for you to be as effective, efficient and productive as you want to be.

Before the missing link is revealed, you’re going to get an inside look at how I create my to-do list and plan my workday for maximum results. The system constantly evolves, as will yours, as we find what works and what doesn’t. Don’t despair if your first system doesn’t work as well as you’d hope. Just take that feedback and make it better. Always keep learning and improving, experimenting and adjusting, as that is how you will win your battles that allow you to own your days.

Your daily discipline will improve with practice. Rituals and routines that support the right behaviors in your life will emerge. Your days will get easier. Success will become automatic. And the missing link will make things even more effective.

The missing link in your success is Scripting Your Day.

Most people have routine workdays. You get up at the same time, arrive at work at precisely three minutes before your official start, and do roughly the same things day-in and day-out. Even if your career involves a lot of travel, as mine does, general routines can still be kept. We get to the airport and slog through the TSA rigmarole, find a chair, open our laptops, and work as if we were in a more hospitable environment. It is the routine of the road warrior.

Our daily routine gives us a rough template for each day. If we know our priorities, we can build on this, scripting our tomorrows today in order to maximize the time and effort spent working towards what matters.

For example, here is my daily routine template.

4am – Writing Session #1

6am – Big Thinking

6:30am – Meditation and Review of my Daily Guiding Documents

7am – Dog Walk and Breakfast

8am – Writing Session #2

10:30am – Exercise

1pm – Lunch and Reading

2pm – Check Email

3pm – Phone Calls and Email

4pm – Dog Walk and ETR Gratitude Journaling

5pm – Reading, Dinner, Family/Social Time, and More Reading

8pm – Bedtime

I know what you’re thinking. How can you go to bed at 8pm? It’s simple. All I’ve done is shift my schedule ahead a few hours from the norm to accommodate my Magic Time. Working in these early hours is vital to achieving my big goals and dreams and leaving a legacy in my life. When social events keep me up past my preferred bedtime, I do my best to remain true to my 4am awakening. Later in the day I’ll make up for lost sleep with what I call The Spanish Solution (an afternoon nap).

I urge you to include an early morning wake-up in your daily script. You can do it. It’s no different from the transition you made from sleeping until 11am each day in college to getting up at 8am – or earlier – for your first job after graduation. Somehow you survived that lifestyle change, and you will easily survive changing your current schedule to get up fifteen minutes earlier. It’s not that hard and you would reap incredible benefits. I simply took it a few steps further because I know how important the time is between 4 and 6am.

But the exact hours I stick to are not important. Don’t use my early hours as an excuse for you to shirk the responsibility of scripting your schedule. You are an adult. You can choose to get up whenever you want. You know your routine. Your job is to maximize it.

When I’m not traveling, my days are simple, almost boring, but always highly productive. The routine is customized for the priorities in my life. For example, these days the first writing session is reserved exclusively for my book. Some days the second session is as well, while on other days it’s reserved for Early to Rise essays or fitness and nutrition articles for Men’s Health or TurbulenceTraining.com.

Like many other prolific writers from past and present, including Stephen King, Charles Darwin, and Charles Dickens, I spend my afternoons in correspondence and on easier projects, such as ETR Team Updates. Email is always avoided until after lunch after I’ve exhausted my creativity and willpower, as are phone interviews and meetings.

Following my daily script gives me great fulfillment and satisfaction, and allows me to be more productive than almost anyone I know (except for my mentor, Mark Ford, who still accomplishes more than I do every day).

My Magic Time is early in the morning. I love to work while others slumber. There have been many days where I’ve written 2000, 3000, or even 5000 words before the average American has settled into their desk and opened up their email. I am lucky to dictate my work schedule, so I break up the day with exercise and dog walks, and these creative breaks even add to my productivity.

The scripted day is easy to stick to when working from home. However I also travel almost fifteen days each month and must modify my routine to deal with friction, such as packing and unpacking, traveling to and from out-of-the-way airports (especially Denver!), security lines, flight delays, and the necessary grocery store visits in strange cities that my specific diet requires.

These demands cut into what we can get done while traveling, but if you plan and prepare and stick to a travel script, you’ll find yourself highly productive even while on the road. I can meditate and review my notes on a plane. You can even check your email at 30,000 feet thanks to nearly ubiquitous Wi-Fi.

Your script is vital to your success. You must plan your days, and preferably your entire week so that you know what you can get done and so that you start the day organized, and are immediately able to attack the number one priority in your life.

Your template and daily script become easy to follow when you build it around your priorities, your Magic Time, and you have your NOT-to-do list in place. It protects your automatic actions and right behaviors.

The scripted day is the best day. The best day leads to a great life. A great life ensures a lasting legacy. Each minute is a battle to be won. Make the right decisions with your time. This is the only life you have.

[Ed Note: Craig Ballantyne is the editor of Early to Rise (Join him on Facebook here) and the author of Financial Independence Monthly, a complete blueprint to helping you take control of your financial future with research of proven methods in your career, in your business and in your personal life. He has created a unique system to show gratitude and appreciation to stay on track for these goals each and every day. Click here to follow the exact 5-minute system you can use to improve your life.]