On a beautiful Saturday morning in the spring of 2005 I woke up at 6:30am and quickly prepared for the short subway ride to the gym. Every weekend I’d meet one of my favorite personal training clients at 8am for his workout.

That morning, like so many Saturdays before, a flood of ideas began rushing to my head. As I ate, dressed, and packed my bag, I found myself scribbling notes for articles to send to my fitness readers, as well as new workout ideas for clients and future information products to create.

As I caught the train and began reading the business book I had brought along for the ride, the ideas continued to arrive fast and furious. On it went for the entire 25-minute trip until I had filled three pages of my notebook with initiatives.

It was that day that I finally decided to no longer train clients early on Saturday mornings. Looking at the opportunity cost, I was sacrificing my most productive hours for $85 (what I would earn for the training session). Much more progress in my web-based business – and toward my American Dream – would be made if I blocked out those early morning hours for writing, product creation, and planning.

From that fateful Saturday morning forward I redoubled my efforts to freeing up my magic time for writing and product creation. I accepted an immediate pay cut by training fewer clients in the early morning hours on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

However, this allowed me to complete more quality work on projects that were crucial for the success of my online business, including creating more products, writing promotional emails, and crafting the all important sales letters that would make or break my business.

Being ”early to rise” is not just a cliché in my life, nor should it be in yours. It’s a proven way to get more done and get ahead. I still remember reading a Michael Masterson essay before 2005 that advised ETR readers to be the first into the office each morning so they could get ahead on projects that would advance their careers. Designing your life to get more done could be the most important advice a mentor could ever give you.

And great minds think alike. Earlier this week in my Internet Independence newsletter, I wrote about the ”ONE thing” that Dan Kennedy labeled as the most important component of success. That ”one thing” was implementation – taking action and COMPLETING the most important activities in your business.

Getting an early start each day, and not doing anything else until you’ve completed one important task for your business each morning is the magic that sets in motion your success. It’s not the latest shiny Internet Marketing object that matters, but the consistent commitment to completing the fundamentals of business building that get you ahead.

Of course, implementation will require sacrifice. For me, it meant not having clients (and therefore not making money) at the peak personal training time of the day so that I could spend that time investing sweat equity into my online fitness business. But I knew this decision would someday bring me the financial freedom (the American Dream) I had been after for so long.

It was a small leap of faith, but one that I had to make in my pursuit of the American Dream. After all, it had been 7 years since I first dreamt of running my own information publishing business, showing men and women around the world how to transform their bodies and their lives. The facts were clear – trading time for money in the gym was not getting me closer to my dream. I simply had to find more time to spend working on my business, and that meant lifestyle re-design.

Fortunately, thanks to persistence and the help of trusted business mentors, my income soon recovered and quickly surpassed my previous year’s earnings as my online business grew rapidly – all due to the extra magic time I devoted to it.

It’s understandable that the idea of lifestyle design may be intimidating. Where does one start? How does someone with a traditional 9-to-5 job begin this journey? Can anyone REALLY do this?

You’ll find the answers to be simple. Notice that I said simple, but not easy. Moving a heavy rock from your path in the woods is a simple task too, but certainly not easy. But as you gather momentum with simple efforts performed on a consistent basis, it will get easier and more rewarding as you see progress being made.

Here is what you can do as a beginner to lifestyle design and energy management.

  1. Get up earlier. (Simple, not easy.)
  2. Carry a notepad with you everywhere – let the ”normal people” read the 2-year old magazines at the dentist office while you brainstorm solutions for obstacles in your business.
  3. Maximize your commute – listen to audio programs while you drive or be productive by creating while you ride the train or bus.
  4. Be keenly aware of cause and effect in all aspects of your life. Identify your most productive times of the day. Identify when your best ideas sprint to life. Once identified, work furiously to free up and protect that time and put yourself in the environment conducive to your most profitable activities.
  5. Chip away at your lifestyle design and work towards your long-term vision. This will not happen overnight and it will not be easy – you’ll meet with resistance from family, friends, work colleagues, and of course, that person that can often be your biggest enemy – yourself. Just promise yourself to improve slightly every day.

Bonus Tip: Get social support. Seek out others who share similar goals. Join the Early To Rise Facebook page and be on the lookout for two new upcoming networking opportunities in the Early to Rise world.

Your lifestyle design won’t happen overnight, but with social support and a commitment to constant improvement, you will make dramatic progress before the end of the year.

Plus, there is much more information available on this today, from the mind-shifting ideas of Tim Ferriss in his 4-Hour Work Week book to the rigid recommendations of Dan Kennedy in his books, ”No BS Time Management” and ”No BS Ruthless Management of People and Profits”.

Finally, you have Early to Rise. We are dedicated to a life well lived, and that is based on designing your life so that you can work when you want on what you want. That’s how you’ll be able to develop financial independence and live the American Dream – the topic of a new video series we’ll be sharing with you next week.

There will be work. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not promising you ”The Lazy Man’s Guide to Overnight Riches”, but I am promising you that everyone has the opportunity to pursue their American Dream.

To work on your own time, to be your own boss, to be the master of your fate, the captain of your soul, those are ideals worth pursuing.

Don’t let anyone – or anything – stop you from your lifestyle redesign. A little commitment in exchange for a life of freedom is not a lot to ask.

Craig Ballantyne

”Achievement comes from the sum of consistent small efforts, repeated daily.” – Kekich Credo #74…Everyday take baby steps toward improvement. Design your life with better choices day-by-day.

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Craig Ballantyne

Craig Ballantyne is the author of The Perfect Day Formula: How to Own the Day and Control Your Life. Craig has been a contributor to Men’s Health magazine for over 17 years. Today he teaches his gift high-performing entrepreneurs how to squeeze more out of their days, increase their income, and make more quality time for their families in his Perfect Life Workshop and Work-Life Mastery programs. Craig used his own advice to overcome crippling anxiety attacks in 2006, and he’ll teach you his 5 Pillars of Success so you can increase your income, decrease your work time, and live the life of your dreams. Learn more about Craig at craigballantyne.com