Through discipline comes freedom.
This is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, “Domination at Dawn: How to Take Control of Your Morning and Your Life.” Get a free copy when it is released by signing up on the dropdown here.
One of my most popular blog posts was one on why and how I became a morning person. It was essentially just a short schedule of my day and some of the habits I picked up in order to reprogram myself for the day. The post was nothing groundbreaking but the response to it caught me off-guard. I saw it shared widely and received an unusual number of messages and emails thanking me for it.
One of the main points I make early in the post was that we often believe we are either a morning person or a night-owl and that this belief is only part of the picture. For years, I taught myself that I was naturally a night-owl and preferred the evening as a time to get a lot of work done, away from the hustle and bustle of the day and being able to focus while other are asleep.
But Zak, I am not a morning person! I can’t become one. I’ve tried. It doesn’t work.
There is no such thing as a “morning person.” There is also no such thing as a “night owl.” Your preference is a function of how you choose to organize your days and the culmination of your habits. “Morning people” produce no more efficiently than “night owls.” Highly efficient managers (e.g., CEOs, entrepreneurs, people working with teams of other people, sales executives, etc.) often choose to wake up earlier because they know it is easier to reconfigure their physiology than it is to reconfigure their entire days. Highly efficient creators (e.g., solitary engineers, artists, writers, some freelancers) may choose to work later into the night because they don’t have to depend on others constantly. Y Combinator cofounder Paul Graham calls this the “Maker’s schedule vs. Manager’s schedule,” and there’s truth to it. Some people who are not dependent on others to get their work immediately done (i.e., “makers”) can more easily reconfigure their days to however they want to sleep.
They still face the problem of reactivity and compounding tasks if they are caught in a state of compression. Ask any highly productive “maker” if they’ve ever felt stressed or under pressure and you’ll see that the secret to fulfillment isn’t waking up when one wants or deciding one’s schedule.
Most other morning guides coach you on how to become a morning person. This one does not. If you want to become a morning person, go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier. That sentence just saved you countless dollars and hours on other morning routine guides. This guide focuses on how you can design an occasional high-leverage morning to as a reset button to use the rest of your days more efficiently. If you like it, you can turn it into a morning routine and regularly wake up early and follow these strategies. If you don’t, try it out a few times and reap the benefits as you find it necessary. There’s nothing inherently better about waking up earlier but there is something inherently better about getting more value out of every minute of your day.
Domination at Dawn is a Timeout, Not a Vacation
Most people, when under immense stress or anxiety, look to vacations as a reset period. The reality is that most Americans don’t actually vacation long enough to get away from work, if they vacation at all. So the vacation ends up just being a period of anxiety or of wanting to get more done. Even worse, if you’re an overachiever type (which I assume you are or you want to be because you picked up this book), a traditional vacation period often imposes another layer of psychological costs on you and makes you feel like you have to either be productive while out of the office or make up for the lost productivity while on the road.
The escapism of vacationism (the idea that you just need to “get away” and “reset”) gets the entire psychology of proactivity backwards. You don’t need to escape from your day-to-day in order to regain control.
You don’t need more time.
You need to use your existing time better.
Your morning is the opportunity to declare your dominance over your day and over your life. It may seem like a small thing but psychologically understanding your mornings as opportunities to be put back in the driver’s seat is a huge step towards becoming more proactive than reactive in your life. This is the chance to step up, take control, and declare your position as the driver of your day.
If you’ve ever watched live sports, you’ve seen a team take a timeout. Often, teams take a timeout when things aren’t going their way and they need to take control of the game. You don’t see the team leave the stadium, fly to Florida, and spend a few weeks on the beach before flying back and finishing the game. They take a few minutes out of the game to mobilize high-leverage resources, bring in the appropriate players, and change their tactics for the remainder of the period/quarter. They come back swinging.
You need a timeout, not a vacation. Your morning presents the ideal time to take this timeout so that you can come back swinging through your days.
If you enjoyed this, give it a clap, or two, or fifty! If you hated it, send me nasty hate mail. Get a free copy of the Kindle edition by signing up at zakslayback.com.