6:30 is the new 7am!

I recently re-read a blog that I published from 2011 entitled “7am”. The essence of the post is that developing a discipline of starting your work day at 7am will affect the positive trajectory of your career. Well, it seems lately that 6:30 is now the new 7am.

It is 6:08am. I am at a restaurant which is a 40-minute drive from my condo waiting for the CEO of one of my clients to arrive for our bi-weekly 6:30am meeting. This is one of two CEO’s that I meet at the same restaurant at 6:30 on a regular basis. We will meet for 2 to 2 ½ hours. To be here at this time, my alarm is set for 5am allowing for a quick shave & shower to be on the road around 5:30. This morning, I awoke around 4:50 before my alarm, which is why I am early.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy sleeping in as much as the next person. Forcing myself out of a warm bed on a dark and cold winter morning is not easy but I am convinced that developing this discipline over the past 38 years has been one of the most important factors in the success I have had in my career.

While this article may be viewed as old school and not relevant to the millennial culture of tech companies, I disagree. More importantly, so do a lot of senior executives running those companies. As one client said to me a few weeks ago, the best advice he ever received was early in his career from his father. It was: “Be at work before your boss and don’t leave until after they do”. While that may seem old fashioned, that executive is leading a 500-person division of a growing software company today. If that is what you aspire to do, this article will provide some insight into the commitment it takes.

So, from June 4, 2011, here is my post 7AM:

I am frequently asked about my career, often by recent grads that are looking for career advice. I enjoy these discussions, because they provide a great sense of gratification that I am hopefully able to help someone else achieve their goals.

It was during one of these recent discussions that I stumbled upon the recognition of one the keys that have contributed to my success, starting from the very beginning. For the last 30+ years, 7am has been the time that I arrive in the office or at my first meeting of the day.

This started with my first job and my first boss at IBM. He was a manager on the fast track and was in the office every morning at 7. He did this because his schedule between 9 and 5 was packed and sliced into dozens of meetings. Between 7 and 9am was his planning time, his thinking time, and over a coffee, his social time. He had a young family, so he was usually out of the office by 6pm.

I quickly discovered that between 7 and 8 am, he and I were the only ones in the office, so I got access to him, whether it was discussing a business issue, mentoring or social. He got to know me, he became my mentor and he became an early sponsor who pushed me into situations that I would not have had an opportunity for otherwise.

Through my next series of jobs and new bosses, I discovered that this 7am start time was not unique to my first boss. Many managers and executives, who are aiming higher, started their day early. So do customer executives. Clients, whose schedules were unavailable during the business day, were accessible at 7am.

7am is a time where you can form relationships, receive mentoring and be noticed by important people to whom you would otherwise be anonymous. 

As I moved into more senior roles, my go-to team were the people whom I interacted with between 7am and 9am. They got more of my attention and I relied on them more. They got opportunities others didn’t. If they performed, they got promoted faster.

7am causes you to form impressions about people. For a while in my career, I had responsibility for an organization in Montreal. I used to get up at 5am or before to catch to 6:30 flight from Toronto which landed at 7:30 and got me into the Montreal office at 8. It bothered me that I was usually the one opening the office and putting on the first pot of coffee.

Even now, thirty years into my career, I stick with my 7am regiment. On average, I schedule eight to ten 7am breakfast meetings a month. People, who would otherwise take eight weeks to get on their calendar, meet with me within two weeks’ notice.

If you are young, ambitious, and want to get noticed, getting up early may be the way to go. Besides, traffic at 6am is a lot less frustrating.

If this post resonated with you, you may enjoy reading Why I think I am a 61-year-old Millennial or Career Advice 101 – Observations looking back over many years

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