It’s said that if you’re early you’re on time. And if you’re right on time you’re late.
I’ve never been a stickler for being early to places and events. Even on my wedding day, I was running around town for last minute things, getting back to the hotel just on time for my make up.
Although I’ve struggled with punctuality, I value being on time. I think it is important. There are the obvious reasons of common courtesy.
I always thought it was about the people I was going to meet. That being early was important because the other person wouldn’t have to wait. That it showed my dedication to our meeting. That it showed them I cared enough to make the effort to be there before the set time.
All of these are valuable to society. But there’s also value for one’s own self in being early. When I seek mind cultivation, a big part of it is coming to peace. To create space for myself within the world. Space to rest, gather, and then focus and create.
A solid way to create that space is to be early. It’s a simple concept. When I’m early I eliminate rush. The tension, anxiety, and stress that arise from being late, or just on time, can be detrimental to inner peace.
But for someone who isn’t used to being early, I have a lot to discover in this practice. Yesterday we took a tour of the beautiful Antelope Canyon. Water bore a slot through the earth a hundred million years ago.
We didn’t want to miss the chance to see the waves, twists, and turns of the colorful cave. The sunrise tour started at 7 a.m., so I got up at 4:45 a.m., made butter coffee, and got there early. Here’s a couple of things that work for me in being early.
First, foresight and early decision-making. If I’m getting up earlier than usual, I have to sleep earlier to get enough rest. Surest way to get to bed early is to eat early. So I have to cook earlier, get groceries earlier, and so forth.
Second, I budget the time I will take to do things leading up to my appointment, rather than the time I need. It’s better to give myself excess time than to squeeze tasks side by side. The latter always leads to some tasks overextending.
For example, since my morning routine involves making coffee, I have to remember the time it takes to clean up. This can be the difference between gulping the coffee in a rush versus feeling calm as I walk out the door.
Third. Slack is always better than sacrifice. Tim Ferriss talks about giving himself slack in life in order to remain flexible for unexpected events. Rather than sacrifice a quiet hour of journaling and meditation, I can eat dinner a couple of hours earlier the night before. This lets me sleep and then wake earlier the next morning, and have the extra quiet hour. This ties in foresight.
Lastly, when I’m early, all efforts toward getting to my appointment only makes me earlier. Every little detail changes shape when I’m early. A red light in traffic just means a pause to look around and soak in my surroundings. A green light means I’m going to be even earlier. Every breath I take adds to my calm and focus. The song playing accompanies an already glorious morning.
I think about how all these things are so different when I’m in a rush, when I’m late.
The early bird gets the worm. Yes. It’s not about getting it before all the other birds. It’s just about getting the worm at all. There’s a time to get the worm. And if you’re there early, you can get it.