Get Up Early Tomorrow

My son, LSF, has many extraordinary talents and all the peccadilloes you’d expect from a 20-year-old going to school in New Orleans. Every time I see him, as I did this holiday, I’m impressed by his intelligence and good nature. He is more and has more than I was and had at his age. Still, when I hear that he had to talk his way onto the plane because he lost his identification six weeks earlier and that he’s “having trouble” getting to his 10 a.m. math concepts class (“I mean, really. It’s ridiculously early”), I feel the urge to advise him. OK, I want to do more than advise him. I want to lecture. I want to slam him with a speech like the one Polonius gave to the departing Hamlet.

Since one of LSF’s many attributes is consideration toward the aged and feeble, I know he will listen to me. He will nod his head dutifully, but how much attention will be paid? There’s no point in a lecture of a hundred points – even good ones – so a pragmatic instinct prods me to restrict my advice to a single plea. My hope is to get him to do only one thing that will spur him to do all the other things he needs to do.

After much consideration, I have discovered what that one piece of advice should be: Get up early. In past messages, we’ve talked about the big reasons getting up early can improve your life. It lets you get a jump-start on your competition and approach each day with maximum energy and enthusiasm. It signals to the world that you have high standards and that you are willing to work long and hard to achieve them. It gives you the time you need to plan your days, weeks, months, and years – to make your quotidian life support your long-term goals. And it forces you to get to bed earlier, thus avoiding a lot of activities and behaviors that won’t do anything but slow down or impede your natural progress. These are the big reasons, but there are other reasons as well. Some of them are mentioned in a chapter of a book I’m reading now for a future ETR message. The book, by Jeffrey J. Fox, is titled “How to Become CEO.”

The chapter is short, so I’ll give it to you in its entirety here: Corporate Climbing Reasons Why You Should Arrive 45 Minutes Early And Leave 25 Minutes Late “If you are going to be first in your corporation, start practicing by being first on the job. People who arrive at work late don’t like their jobs – at least that’s what senior management thinks. People don’t arrive 12 minutes late for the movies. And being early always gives you a psychological edge over the others in your company. “Don’t stay at the office until 10 o’clock every night. You are sending a signal that you can’t keep up or your personal life is poor. Leave 15 minutes late instead. In those 15 minutes, organize your next day and clean your desk. You will be leaving after 95% of the employees anyway, so your reputation as a hard worker stays intact.

“There are too many times in your career when circumstances like airline schedules, sales meetings, year-end closings, and such will keep you away from home until late. During the normal periods, give more time to your family. “Plus, 45 minutes early and 15 minutes late is an hour a day. That’s 250 hours a year, or 31 days. You can get ahead quickly working one extra month a year.”

There are corporate mentality problems embedded in Fox’s argument (e.g., “leave no more than 15 minutes late”) that irk me. But I don’t argue with his basic advice. And it’s especially good advice for the New Year. What are you doing?

* Are you getting to work, consistently, at least 15 minutes early?

* Do you stay late?

* Are you spending at least 15 minutes a day planning your schedule?

* Do you start each day with a list of tasks that relate, directly and purposefully, to your life goals?

* Are you taking care of your Important-but-not-Urgent tasks in a timely manner?

* Are you getting to bed earlier than you were when you started ETR?

* Are you rising earlier too?

Answer “no” to any of these questions, and you have yourself an Action Plan for today. Think about what you are doing after dinner. If you are spending more than an hour relaxing, think about trading that time in for some sleep. Starting tomorrow, and for the rest of 2001, get up one hour earlier than you’ve been getting up so far. Get up and get right to work, doing something that is important to you. Start planning for it now. Do it tomorrow morning.

[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.]