“I am in that temper that if I were under water I would scarcely kick to come to the to.” – John Keats (1795-1821), letter to Benjamin Bailey
For some time, I had been feeling pressed and anxious. It got bad last week. From the moment I stepped into the office, I was beset with one problem after another. By four oclock, I was ready to scream. Then, in the middle of a particularly frustrating marketing meeting, I went a little nuts. Or I would have had I not excused myself and gone home.
That night, after a less-than-serene family dinner, I went out to the back yard and climbed into a little hot tub I had built for more romantic purposes. I lit up a cigar, stared at the sky, and asked myself the usual list of self-indulgent questions. (Why Me? I never succumb to pressure. Arent I Mr. Can Do?)
I nodded off. When I came to, my robusto was floating in the water beside me. I picked it up and for no special reason read the label. Underneath the brand name, there was a phrase in Spanish: buenas cosas premiero (good things first).
Then it hit me. The mounting strain I had been feeling had coincided with a change I had made in my morning routine. Instead of starting off the day by writing Early to Rise, I had started by answering my e-mail. I would sit down, turn on the computer, and let in the problems. The same kinds of problems I used to deal with in person, but with e-mail, there are more of them. (The nice thing about having a physical office door is that some people hopefully those with less critical problems walk away when they see you are busy.)
Bad Thinking . . .
My idea was to get the messy stuff out of the way before I’d give myself the pleasure of writing ETR. It was the business-day equivalent of eating peas before potatoes. But it was a big mistake. I was spending the most potentially productive period of my day battling problems. It was, to use the vernacular, a bummer.
Besides putting you in a bad mood and draining your energy, dealing with the day-to-day crap in the morning is inefficient. Tha’ts because many problems solve themselves if you give them just a little bit of time. (Try it. Youll be amazed.) This is particularly true of personality problems, office politics, etc. By staying out of such imbroglios, at least for a while, you avoid saying or doing things you might avoid later. Other problems, and most of the how-do-you-do-this kind fall into this category, are better solved (at least in part) by those who ask them.
How To Make 4 Mistakes At Once
By opening my e-mail and attempting to get it all out of the way before my real day began, I was making four mistakes at once. I was:
1. Doing more work than necessary
2. Getting myself entangled in messes I shouldn’t have
3. Putting myself in an unproductive mood somewhat irritated, apprehensive and fatigued
4. Worst of all, I was spending my days best energy on low-priority, high-anxiety issues.
This week, I returned to my old routine. First, I organize my schedule. Next, I write an ETR message. I don’t even turn on the computer until those two important jobs have been done. And it makes all the difference in the world.
By the time I finish writing my daily ETR message, I have done two good things: I have prepared myself for a productive day and I have accomplished one important task. Those two accomplishments make me feel good. And that feeling gives me extra energy when I turn on the computer and face my e-mail.
A New Resolution
I’m going to make this a permanent habit. To begin each morning with a cup of great, freshly blended coffee from 7-Eleven or Dunkin Donuts (you can’t do better) and a conversation with you.
Talking to you through Early to Rise cheers me up. It makes me feel good because I’m focused on YOU . . . on helping you become more successful. And at the end of writing Early to Rise, I still have plenty of energy. In fact, I have more energy than I do when I begin. And my attitude is better, more hopeful. I am ready to take on that damn e-mail.
Heres What You Should Do
Give yourself the same benefit. After you’ve organized your day, pick out one task that is important but not urgent and get it done. (See Message #176.) It should be something that will advance one of your four Life Goals (from Message #102). It may be something you enjoy doing, or it may be something that you’ve been trying to avoid. The critical thing is this: It must be something that, when done, will give you a positive feeling of accomplishment.
Today, think about what that task might be and put it on tomorrow’s to-do list. Since you will want to get yourself organized and accomplish this task before your official day begins, make sure you won’t be interrupted. So shut off your phone. And close your office door.[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]