“Get up son, it’s time to time to do the firewood,” my dad would yell down the staircase gleefully at 6:30 AM on a Saturday morning.
You see my dad is the sort of irrationally hard worker that is responsible for building countries like Canada and the USA in the last century. He loves the idea of getting up early and getting something done. For him, it’s not even necessarily about the monetary rewards of getting in a few extra hours of work, it’s more about the intrinsic benefits of leading a disciplined and productive life – something that will give you a purpose. When I went to university I got up around 8AM most of the time since I lived right on campus. This made me a freak amongst many of my peers who didn’t realize the world started before 10AM, and certainly wasn’t to be attacked until noon for anything other than an emergency. When I came home on weekends, my dad made sure that my slothful ways were not eating away at the bedrock of work ethic he had worked so hard to instil in me. I always associated those early morning chores with physical labour that did a lot for the inner spirit, but little for the overall pocket book. It turns out that it can be both.
The Lumberjack of the Personal Finance World
It wasn’t until years later that I found someone that was able to tie together the work ethic of a lumberjack with the financial savvy of a professional wealth manager. Without acknowledging it, the guy basically became my blogging mentor – the fellow I’m referring to is Mike Heroux from The Financial Blogger. When I started blogging a couple of years ago, I thought I was working hard, pumping out a few thousand words of content in my spare time in the evenings. Then I looked at Mike’s itinerary, and I realized just how hard some bloggers were willing to work. Now I make a concerted effort to maximize the benefits of waking up early since that is my most productive time of the day. I now usually get 1500-2000 words typed up and formatted before I leave the house at 8AM on weekdays. Lately, I have been able to maintain this pace 4 out of 5 weekdays and it has given me a tremendous boost to my productivity.
For me, writing is about utilizing blocks of time where I can completely focus my time and energy without distraction. After a couple weeks of training my mind to sharpen quicker than it would sometimes like to in the morning, I have found that I look forward to my morning writing sessions. It actually helps prepare my mind for the day, and I am definitely more productive at 7AM than I am at 7PM in the evening (I have tracked my natural high points for productivity over the last few months, and I’ve found my efficiency hits a peak at 10AM and a valley at 3PM). Getting up early in the morning and getting a little head start on the rest of the rat race is a real mental advantage for me.
Some people are now referring to pieces of advice like this as “life hacks”. The basic idea is to figure out unique ways to maximize your time during a day. A lot of us are fond of saying, “Well, there are only so many hours in a day,” or something similar. The fact is that if we maximized our time management skills, we could enjoy the same quantity and quality of leisure time that we currently do, while boosting our output by a fairly substantial margin.
Do We Really Know What Hard Work Is?
The thing is that most people don’t have much motivation to get up earlier and worry about building something for themselves every day. Some people are prepared to do this to help their physical well-being (flashbacks to my boxing days make me shiver), but few of us seem willing to apply the same sort of dedication to building a side business or doing something else that will benefit us in long-run. I think this is because that we aren’t exactly known for delayed gratification these days, and waking up early, sacrificing that basic creature comfort, in order to gain a little on the rest of the pack is contrary to what a lot of us have been taught by society at large. The interesting thing is that I recently saw an interview on TV where a doctor was talking about the benefits of not only sleep, but the benefits of maintain a consistent sleep pattern. Since then I have gotten up early on weekends too, and I feel that I always have much more energy throughout my day because of it (if I want to give in to creature comforts, I catch about a 30 min power nap in the afternoon).
I realize that I’m not exactly re-inventing the wheel here when I say that there are benefits to waking up early, but I think it is worth re-emphasizing. Many of us don’t mind getting up early to commute to a job, yet when we move closer to our place of work, we use the new surplus of time to sleep instead of building up another stream of income, or getting our investment portfolio in line. Kevin O’Leary mentioned in a recent interview with MacLean’s that the main thing he took away from his boarding school education was the discipline of getting up at 4:30 AM (now that’s early!). He said that he still gets up before 6AM every day. In his own weird way, I’m sure Mr. O’Leary finds great inner peace by maintaining this discipline, similar in some ways to soldiers, or monks etc. Just think about the extra productivity he has racked up over the years simply by getting up earlier. My girlfriend’s Grandpa is a true Horatio Alger story who came over to the USA as a young man, and started his own potato delivery business (he was Irish, so what other industry was he going to go into right?). He talks about getting up well before the crack of dawn in order to beat other suppliers and build his business. Eventually his business grew into something quite substantial!
My dad, a successful Irish immigrant, Mike Heroux, and Kevin O’Leary can’t all be wrong can they? What’s your morning routine look like? Have you ever considered the advantages of starting your day one focused hour earlier?