Each day, the most intense work I accomplish, is accomplished before breakfast.
I was reminded of that this morning when I noticed that a link to one of my all-time favorite articles by Michael Hyatt had come across my desk: Slay Your Dragons Before Breakfast. It’s not earth-shattering or life-changing, but it is good, solid words.
And so true.
Each day requires the unknown of us. Most days are incredibly ordinary–and every person’s ordinary looks different. Some days, though, are any thing but ordinary. They may be extraordinarily amazing. Or extraordinarily devastating. Or, extraordinarily challenging. Or extraordinarily peaceful. Or extraordinarily harried. The only thing certain is that there are going to be things required of us.
Maybe you are the type of person that jumps out of bed, exhibiting exuberance and ready to carpe diem all day long. I find that I have days like that, too, on rare occasion. In reality, though, I am much more likely to not be of that mind frame when the day begins.
So, the idea of slaying dragons before breakfast makes perfect sense to me. One reason is that I love breakfast. Gosh, I love breakfast. And breakfast is so much more enjoyable if I’ve done the hard-work of dragon-slaying first.
But, more than my pull to breakfast, I often wake up unsettled in my mind. And my soul. There is a fair amount of preaching to myself that must occur in order to push forward with the day. There are things that I work to establish in my brain (and soul) each and every morning.
It’s the stuff of Psalm 143:8:
In fact, I’ve gotten in the habit of praying this each night before going to sleep. Psalm 143:8 and Psalm 4:8. Praying these verses are my way of reminding God (as if He needs reminding!) that, if He grants sleep, in a few short hours, I will be awake again, and begging Him to be real and present.
I’ve found that there are 3 battles I undertake each morning, between 5:00 (ish) am and 8:00 (ish) am. Maybe you can relate:
Mind and Soul
I get nowhere in a day, without battling the hardest, ugliest, most challenging dragon first: my own incredibly sinful mind and soul. Each morning this battle looks the same, while also looking very, very different. What I mean by that is this: The battle framework is usually the same. The weapons are always the same. But the course of the fight is always different.
My framework is the same each and every day: Study, and prayer. Adoration. Confession. Thanksgiving. Earnest prayer for a handful of others. These 4 things are lifelines for me. They are anchors. They are swords.
In addition to that work, I have, over the past year, started wrapping up this battle with a checklist of sorts each day (yes, a literal checklist). It looks like this:
- God is real.
- God is who He says He is.
- Scripture has to be truth.
- God forgives, even though you don’t deserve it.
- Grace is a real thing.
- His mercies are new today, and will be new tomorrow as well.
- Love your crew well.
- Care well for those in need.
- Work hard. Work hard. Work hard. Work hard.
- Life is short, Home is real. There will be a day.
This is the most challenging battle of the day. This has become what makes me or breaks me by noon. Some days I don’t get very far. Some days look much more like study than prayer. Some days look like nothing. Some days tear my brain up. Occasionally, well, yes, sometimes I emerge from this battle a bit bloodied. But it is the dragon that has to be taken out before any other dragons, because it is the one that attacks the most furiously and relentlessly. There is no rest from this dragon.
I am a creature of habit. When my routine is off, I am unsettled. If I can knock a few things out of the way, first thing in the morning, then I am much more likely to stay motivated to work hard throughout the rest of the day. It sounds crazy, but there is a sense of accomplishment in things like making your bed, unloading the dishwasher, doing a load of laundry. So, while I’m seeing my crew out the door to school or work, I also tackle a few of these things. Every day. Without fail. They only take seconds to do, but just that sense of accomplishment (Bed made? Check. Laundry started? Check.) pushes me on to the very next task. Some of my favorite tools I use to keep on track are on my Productivity Resource page located Here.
This is my final early morning dragon. If I don’t exercise early, it won’t happen. Too much happens during the day to get in the way, plus many of my co-workers live on the West Coast, which means my work day rarely ends before 8 pm. Also, there is something settling about walking early, seeing the sky, sorting things out, sweating, stomping along like a hippopotamus. I don’t listen to music; I think.
Slay your dragons early, Michael Hyatt says. Yes. Ok. Because when we don’t, they seem to grow, and then we can’t. Or else, we can, but they take much more energy and prevent or prohibit us from other work, other battles, other tasks that may make up the remainder of the day.
Slaughter them early.
Then eat breakfast.