Secret #4 Be Early
What is the ‘be early?’ secret?
Secret #3: Two ahead, is all about preparing.
Secret #4: Be early, is physically getting yourself where you need to be – before you need to be there.
Vince Lombardi (Hall of Fame football coach) is famous for requiring his players to be 15-minutes early for practice. Being early is referred to as ‘Lombardi Time.’ He claimed that being “on time” was late.
Since we’re talking sports, think of being ‘right on time’ as a football player crossing the goal line; he has ten massive defensive linemen touching the hem of his jersey. There’s only a nano-second between victory and a pummeling. That’s what being on-time looks like.
Now imagine the same player trotting leisurely down the field, no pursuers in sight. As he carries the ball to the goal, he smiles and waves at the fans. That’s Early.
Granted, that would make for boring football. But this is real-life. It’s not fun to spend your days like 300-pounds of disaster is pursuing you.
5 brilliant reasons to be early
Air of competence
Imagine the mom that comes rushing into (church, preschool, the grocery store). She’s obviously in a tizzy. Children are trailing behind. She’s digging in her purse for something. She tells her kids to hurry up – again.
Something falls our of her hand to the floor. A bystander picks it up and chases after her. Her hair is frazzled. Maybe her sweater is inside out – hard to tell – she’s moving so fast. She’s the poster mom for a hot mess.
Maybe this mom is you – always feeling like you’re a day late and a dollar short.
That’s what being chronically late does to your reputation.
It makes you look incompetent.
Being early, on the other hand, marks you as a person that has their act together.
You can be trusted.
Rushing causes a surge of adrenaline (and probably other stress chemicals, but I’m not a doctor).
What comes up must go down.
After a rush of stress, adrenaline drops, and it makes you want to take a long nap.
Being late creates instant stress in our bodies. It does not bring out the best in our personality.
Find a person with time to spare, and you will find a calm person.
This might hurt a little – late people are self-absorbed.
Not selfish exactly, just caught up in the drama that is their life.
Being late also sends a message that you don’t value others time.
The truth is late people tend to be the most social and caring of all. That’s often what makes them late.
Still, actions communicate louder than words.
Being early leaves room to pause and connect with the people around you, giving others your full attention.
Emergencies happen. The more people you have to corral (i.e., kids) the more often you will find yourself in a pickle.
Being late causes small, inconsequential mishaps to become complete day-ruining disasters.
When you build a time buffer around events, you’re able to roll with little emergencies.
Time gives you options.
Being early brings tangible rewards; options, the pick of the litter, plum assignments, and benefits.
You will have more choices and a better selection.
Your favorites will be available.
Opportunities will come your way.
Put ‘be early’ into practice
Alarms and alerts
Use your phone and kitchen timer to build in transition time.
If you decide you need to pull out of the driveway at 9 a.m., you want to start moving at 8:45 or earlier.
A common practice of chronically late people is thinking that the 9 a.m. go-time is the time to start moving.
That’s too late.
Alert yourself to stop and shift gears.
Children also thrive on notice.
Imagine if your husband ran into the room every day and said, “Hurry, we’re late! Get in the car right now!”
I’ve done that to my kids. Not nice.
Use your tools.
Lombardi’s 15-minute rule is a great place to start.
Keep the context in mind when deciding how much of a buffer you need.
If you have to catch an international flight, you need a 2-3 hour buffer.
Meeting a friend at the mailbox to go for a walk? Obviously, you don’t want to stand there for 15 minutes. Two minutes is sufficient.
The point is to wrap events with time padding.
In the book, ‘You Don’t Have to Go Home From Work Exhausted!” Ann McGee-Cooper recommends joy breaks.
Create a list broken down into 2-5 minute breaks, 5-30 minute breaks, 30 min – 2-hour breaks, and half-day breaks.
Although the book is intended for the work world, joy breaks are a perfect concept for mothers.
Being early builds in time for these mini-vacations.
If you arrive early for a dentist appointment, you not only gain peace of mind, you can now enjoy a few minutes of a good book, write a thank you note, or just breathe.
Build in time around dropping your child off for their afternoon activity and read-aloud to them, catch-up on their day or play a word game.
Keep a book with you at all times. Spare minutes add up to a well-read life.
Make it a habit of getting your children to their stuff 15-minutes early, and you will see your stress plummet and organization skyrocket.
Plan to use the time wisely. You can knock out reading practice, spelling words, the multiplication tables and good old conversation in the spare minutes around piano lessons and soccer practice.
If anything should go wrong – extra traffic, forgotten lunch, pink flip-flops instead of cleats – you still have a fighting chance.
After 25 years of extra-curricular activities, I’ve observed that the children of organized parents get treated better than children who have disorganized parents. That may not be fair, but it’s true.
Arriving early to group functions builds in breathing space.
At church, there’s time to check your child into Sunday school without dragging them by the arm.
You can stop by the restroom, catch up with a friend, or score better seats.
One caveat: being early doesn’t apply to having dinner at someone’s house.
No hostess wants her guests to arrive 15 minutes early. Do be on time. Fashionably late is only fashionable if you’re a movie star.
Prepare a go-bag with supplies that keep you productive.
Include a book for you and one to read to the kids. Toss in magazines you would like to look at.
Pack basic office supplies – envelopes, stamps, pens, tape, and scissors – so you can knock out administrative tasks in pockets of time.
Do you enjoy crossword puzzles, adult coloring books, brain teasers – add those.
Keep a rubber ball in your bag and use it to roll out the tension in your shoulders and back.
Think of all the aspirational projects you don’t have time for (learning a foreign language, keeping up with world events, staying in touch with old friends, being organized) and line up mini-tasks you can fit into the cracks of an early person lifestyle.
Whether you are going to the grocery store or mall, get to the store early, as soon as the doors open, if possible.
You will have the place to yourself.
If it’s impossible to shop early on weekday mornings, arriving first thing on a Saturday will yield the same peaceful benefits.
The opposite is also true – stores are usually empty the hour before closing. Technically, this isn’t being early, but it is engineering your time.
Get to sales early.
Yard sales, clearance sales, garden sales, REI’s garage sale – the best selection is obviously at the beginning.
Arriving before the doors open will have you in and out before the masses.
The one time I think early is a waste of time is Black Friday. Or Green Thursday night or Pink Monday…or whatever they will be calling it next.
Retailers are trying to survive the on-line shopping trend by making everyday “sale day.”
There’s no need to get up at 2 a.m. and potentially get trampled over 50% off socks. (If you enjoy this, consider it a recreational pursuit and have at it!)
Museums, amusement parks, all things tourist…
Getting to tourist attractions before they open the doors will improve your vacation 10-fold, for no extra money.
We’ve always used this secret, but our trip to Disneyland took it to an entirely new level.
I happened on a Disney guidebook that included detailed plans for avoiding long lines. The authors did time-motion studies and designed the perfect order and timing of everything in the park. (I can’t find the title of the book; if anyone knows what I’m talking about, please leave a comment.)
This might sound overly structured for a family vacation. I literally ripped each daily schedule out of the book, and we followed the plan like a war strategy.
It was brilliant.
No unneeded decision making.
We never waited more than 10-minutes to get on a ride.
By lunch time, as we walked back to our hotel for a rest, the entrance lines were snaking around the block.
In the late afternoon, we came back for the magic that is Disneyland at night.
Guess what? The throngs were leaving – tired, hot and grumpy. We had the park to ourselves again (more or less – it is Disneyland).
Now we use some of the same tricks on every vacation:
Get there before the doors open.
Once you’re in, make a beeline for the back of the building (or park). You will be alone for the first part of your visit. As you move forward, the flood of arrivals will be moving toward the back.
Or, pick the most popular feature and go there first thing. By the time the line backs up, and the people are three deep you will have had your fill.
A pattern that works great for family travel is an activity in the morning, then lunch and a quiet time, followed by an activity in the late afternoon/evening. We use this plan as much as possible and find it ideal for energy, health, and good attitudes.
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Being late is defensive.
Early people play offense. On-time is defense.
To score we have to be on the offensive side of life, running ahead.