My friend Summer Rose, an expert personal and life organizer (and the person who packed my apartment of 13 years when I moved) invited me to her BNI chapter meeting this morning for a big guest day.
She knows my general rule about not attending morning meetings, and also knew that I had a few spots to fill to complete my practice hours for my coaching certification program. Her chapter was holding a special event today and I had the opportunity to get in front of 70 people with a coaching offer.
All Opportunity Has a Cost
People often assume that any opportunity to network and meet new people is a good opportunity that you shouldn’t pass up. Many people give up time for this type of thing without a second thought. But one thing I’ve learned is that not all opportunities are good opportunities for me.
On the surface, being invited to share my work with a room of 70 people who are coming with a mindset of making connections would be a no-brainer. If you didn’t already have a commitment with someone else, why wouldn’t you go?
My mornings are sacred, and I go to great lengths to protect them. I grant exceptions sparingly. BNI meetings, with their 7 am start time, are generally a non-starter for me.
Even though this was an opportunity for me, it also came at a cost.
It’s not just about the time commitment; it’s also about the energy commitment.
Creating time is the easy part in assessing any opportunity or invitation. The energetic considerations are more complicated.
My Morning Routine
As a general rule, I don’t communicate with people until at least mid-day. Mornings are when my creativity is at its peak. This is the ideal time of day for me to engage in the deeper thought work and creative projects that require my focus.
I start my day with a series of morning rituals that help me create space for my best creative work. I attempt to get out of my living space as quickly as possible to do my morning workout, followed by meditation. These rituals get me into my body and out of my head. Then I shower, get dressed, and put on my makeup while I marinate on thoughts and ideas. Once I finish getting dressed, I sit to eat something and write.
(To answer a common question: I do not drink coffee.)
These rituals, in this sequence, operate as a set of rules that guides me in the morning. This is how I create space for my best work. Exercise doesn’t just exercise my physical muscles; it helps me harness my focus and keep my creative energy from becoming too dispersed. Physical exercise and meditation catalyze my peak creativity time. Giving up that creative time isn’t only about giving up an hour in my morning; it carries residual effects into my day.
Making Exceptions to the Rules
Every rule has its exceptions, and sometimes an invitation or opportunity warrants making a shift to my routine.
That said, there is a crucial principle whenever I evaluate potential exceptions:
Certain parts of my routine are non-negotiable. Fitness and meditation happen no matter what.
Period. End of sentence.
In five years, I’ve missed only one day of fitness: it was the day I had to go to the emergency room after falling during the night and hitting my head so hard that it was bleeding. And even that took a lot of deliberation (probably more than it should have).
I may compromise on the the quantity of time or the quality of the workout or meditation sit, but it is non-negotiable that I will do them in some form.
The consideration of exceptions is regarding the scope of compromise to my fitness and meditation, and whether it pays to shift my deep work time to after the “opportunity.”[Tomorrow, I’ll share 3 things I evaluate when considering the opportunity.]
“Can I” vs “Does It Make Sense?”
The question was not whether I could make it to a 7 am meeting. It was whether it makes sense for me to do so. I knew that to make this work, I had to wake up extraordinarily early — 4:30 am — to get to the gym early enough for a basic workout and meditation sit.
I knew I would compromise on sleep, and on the quality and quantity of my workout and meditation.
But I had a compelling reason to go.
Motivated by my outcome to fill my available coaching spots and complete my certification requirements, I decided that I would do everything I could to get there, even if it meant arriving a little late.
Noticing the Mind and Energy
The only way you learn these things. Push your limits. Push your edges. And then notice what shows up in your mind and emotions and how you respond to it.
I was up super early — an unproductively early hour for me. I learned a long time ago that waking up before dawn doesn’t boost productivity unless I can be alert enough to move at that hour.
As I headed to the gym in the dark morning, I noticed a split mindset. I was very aware of feelings of resentment toward myself, for committing to myself to attend the meeting. On one hand I wanted to go, and appreciated that Summer invited me. On the other hand, I was second-guessing my decision to go because it meant a very abbreviated workout and meditation.
Plus, it was raining, and my energy tends to be low when it rains. Adding to the mix is the fact that I am performing in a stand-up show tonight and need to maintain peak energy through the evening.
Ocassional vs Sustainable
In the end, I made my offer and got a great response. I was able to schedule the coaching sessions I needed.
One reason I want to share this story is that when I work with clients on morning routines, they inevitably have mornings like this: something that forces them to get out of their typical routine but shows them what’s possible for them to do.
Then they wonder: why can’t I do this all the time?
Sometimes they beat themselves up over the fact that they can’t seem to make it happen consistently.
That used to happen to me, but I had none of that today. I’ve learned that when we have a compelling reason, we can make exceptions to our typical rhythms, but in the long tun, it’s not sustainable.
Even on this one-time basis, I could tell I wasn’t at 100% capacity this morning at the meeting. And it took me out of my rhythm.
If I were to do this on a weekly basis I’d be a bitch. I know, because I used to do this regularly. I was not a nice person.
I cannot sustainably show up as my best self at that early hour of the day. But as an occasional exception, when motivated by a strong enough reason, it is do-able.
I also know that I will need to recover from this; my calendar for tomorrow morning is completely blocked off. No exceptions. (More on this another time.)
Productivity is Personal
Ultimately, the lesson to take away here is that productivity is personal. There is nothing that universally applies to everyone.
You must experiment to find what works best for you. Not just for a one-time event, but what can work sustainably.
You must honor your rhythms for how to create space to do your best work.
Tomorrow I’ll share three things I consider when evaluating these opportunities.