Warning: your drowsiness-prone flesh is not going to like this post.  But…this post can revolutionize your walk with God, your investment in your family, and your productivity in work/ministry like me if you will be open-minded.  The issue with our time-management has less to do with “there not being enough hours in the day” and more to do with our hours of operation beginning too late!

May I give you several ways that an earlier start can transform your schedule:

Early hours in the day are very likely the most productive moments of your entire day.

While there are a few “night owls” that would be the exception to this principle, most would greatly increase their productivity by a humble return to the old school “early to bed, early to rise” approach.  Modern conveniences and technology have caused far too many to listen to the alluring refrain that we can artificially extend our days beyond the going down of the sun-when by the way, God tells it to.  Why are the early morning hours so productive-there is less external “white noise” and more internal clarity!  Most of the extra effort that separates average leaders from excelling ones is whether they are sleeping in or already in motion when the sun bursts over the horizon.  See the following post for more perspective on this concept.  Hours in the morning are measurably “longer and fuller” than hours during the day or after business hours.  The same 60 minutes typically involve greater clarity and productivity the earlier in our window of prime performance they find us “up and at em.”

I don’t know if you are like me, but when I read of Christ’s earthly ministry, it is mind-boggling as to how He squeezed so many and so much into just three and half years.  His secret to success, I am realizing, had less to do with His deity (we cannot have) and more to do with His predawn disciplines (we can have).  What He did with God and in the early hours of every day was everything.  To be a disciple of Jesus (someone who walks in His steps) means you get up early and walk with Him to your prayer closet and all that follows period!  (Not to check your social media feeds or play with your dog but to feed your soul with your Heavenly Father) Early is everything because God is everything and that is where we most fully meet with Him in a Christlike manner.

Mk 1:35 “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.”

Early years of a young child or new believer are the ideals years to effectively exert your influence.

To drag your feet in influential responsibilities toward the next generation often causes their feet to ultimately not follow in the faithful path before the Lord.  It is worth it to fight the emerging battles on the home front with the willful attitude in your toddler and the pervasive apathy your teenager.  As my grandmother, an avid rose gardener, would always say, “nip it in the bud.”  It is a must that the celebration of a new believer gives way to careful followup and discipleship.  To wait is to allow the flesh to gain a foothold that is difficult to unseat as the years pass.  Do the newbies catch us rising early, not only in our personal disciplines but our public duties?

If your influence is waning, could there be an obvious need to be more initiatory and proactive with your parenting, teaching, pastoring, or counseling?  Stop kicking the can further down the road.  Stop being reactionary.  Start preempting future immaturity or foolishness with early and often conversations with those you are responsible to lead.  Delayed obedience to our own Father and Shepherd whom we represent is disobedience.  An effective leader knows that influence is all about timing-timing that tends to be quicker on their part and slower on their follower’s part.  Here is a thought for the mover and shaker that tends to delay: those you influence will never move more efficiently and effectively than you.  Pick up your God-ordained pace and then be patient with theirs!

Pr 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Early conversations lead to a quicker, more holistic resolution of your interpersonal differences.

Much of our conversational challenges are the result not of what we say but when we finally say it.  We wait hours, days, weeks, and even years over some of the most foolish and temporal issues. Whether this be in your home, work, or church, the earlier you meet the tension head on the more likely for it be resolved amicably.  As one author put it, “The more uncomfortable the conversation you have to make is, the more important it is.”  Relational tension, when we love and lead in a godly manner, will always produce a sense of discretion and urgency in our hearts.

Don’t avoid the tough conversation by passive delay or indirect gossip.  These cop-outs are what lead to so much of the dysfunction in our homes, jobs, and churches.  Head directly toward it and that person.  If it involves a “he said, she said” issue, the tendency is to align with the side of the story that a third person hears first. Chances are that their hearing from you as early as possible will be one of the wisest moves you make all day.  Wise leaders attempt to keep the gap between the break in fellowship and resolution as brief and succinct as possible. 

Mt 5:23-25 “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.”

Early preparation leads to the most fully developed content or intuitive events that your skill set can possibly generate.

While I am not a betting man, I am convinced that the best sermons or talks that you have ever generated or heard were largely written in the dawn hours of the day.  And the best initiatives and effective events you have ever been on the receiving end of were organized well in advance.  As my high school speech teacher would emphasize, “preparation precedes poise.”  There truly is a poise level that you will never attain or maintain until you get out of the last-minute mode of scheduling.

From personal experience, I have learned the working well ahead on my preaching or administering frees my mind to be open to more input from others and a more well-rounded clarity in my own mind and heart.  To rush is to miss much of reflectiveness that must be invested before the mental, emotional, and spiritual breakthroughs.  Having been in ministry for almost two decades now, I discern when I or someone is preaching a “Saturday night before” sermon and one that has been marinating for weeks in advance.  The former tends to be under-developed and rash; the latter is supernaturally rich and practical. The same can be said of events in the family, community, and church.

(By the way, if you feel like this post is amazingly insightful, I wisely wrote it in the morning sweet spot.  If not, I mistakenly wrote this way too late.  🙂 )

Pr 24:27 “Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.”

Pr 29:20 “Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him.

Early arrival to church services and events greatly impacts the effectiveness of both your contributions and benefits.

Truly the tardiness of God’s people is greatly hindering the ministry and message of the local church.  While you may be tempted to think walking into church late is no big deal, may I challenge you to change your thinking with a couple of considerations.  First, if everyone had that mindset, it truly would kill the spirit and vitality of your church.  Those who open up the building’s doors, turn on the lights, adjust the thermostats, start the coffee, etc. would be missing.  The prayer time and final review by those who lead worship and give lessons/sermons would not occur.  For those doing these first works, please know they matter and set the table for all that follows.  You get the point-you are benefitting from the timely ministry of so many others whether you realize it or not.  If you are not an early contributor, become a giver instead of just a taker when it comes to your ministry schedule.

Secondly, arriving late greatly affects the one who is late.  You cannot serve effectively without being on time-which is early.  You are saying something to your kids when you arrive early for major sporting events but rush around and ease into Sunday School or church well after its “tip off.”  As a friend of mine recently posted, “Parents, there are a million things you can do on Sunday, but when you wake up and take your kids to church, you are the one preaching the message.”  You also don’t have time to connect with the people God providentially put in your church in a meaningful way before study, prayer, and worship.  And the list goes on.  Don’t be that family or individual that everyone knows will be late to church every week.  Rise early on Sunday to be more relational!  Serve.  Shake hands.  Support the worship leader, teacher, pastor, deacon as they begin their ministry for the day.

Ac 2:42,46 “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.”

(We cannot continue in “one accord” if some us are delinquent or delayed in our attendance!)

Early risings intentionally carve out quiet, sacred time to walk with God on a level that is otherwise impossible.

I am careful to include in this post a major caveat: early rising without including and depending upon God is waste of time and energy.  Psalm 127:1-2 reminds us, “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.”  This passage should not be taken to mean that people need not be diligent, for the Scriptures elsewhere say they should. Rather, these verses stresses that to work early, long days without divine providence and support is futile.

You may be tempted to say, “Why is early such a big deal?”  The reason to rise early is to let the God who makes any given day to preemptively assert His love in our hearts and wisdom in our minds.  This must happen before we do, say, or think anything else!  Way to many of us, even in spiritual leadership, are attempting to play catch up all day simply because we did not get up and get with God first!  Would you join me in a growing army of catalysts to change this trend.

Ps 143:8 “Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.”

A final and important thought: every day, not just work days or key days, must begin early.  “Early to rise” every day creates a rhythm to your schedule that is sustainable and actually supports itself.  What do I mean by “supports itself”?  One day begun earlier and ended earlier than the average pre-deposits energy and momentum into the next day to repeat it.  (I have not arrived to this level yet, but I have interacted with several whose sleep cycle no longer even requires an alarm clock to rise even long before dawn.)  This is why-with some obvious exceptions like vacation-your weekend/off days should not include frequent sleeping in beyond your weekday alarm schedule.  Trust me.  You will pay for that regular digression on Monday mornings.  Commit to a morning schedule customized for you in a way that you can rise and repeat over and over and over. (Notice that I am not offering a specific, wooden schedule that must be followed.  You can get up too early and this will all change as your seasons of life change.)  Mark it down: those who are high performance leaders in the workspace and at home where you are not are very likely awake and on task long before you.  While tough to admit, that realization gives you and me great hope.  We can change with a simple, growing belief that “early is everything” before the Lord.

Photo by Kelvin Lutan on Unsplash