Breakfast is the new Lunch. And Dinner. And Drinks. And Coffee. (Or, why I’m only doing Breakfast Meetings From Now On.)

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Too busy to read this whole post? Read this one line: Lunch meetings, “meeting for drinks,” and “dinner meetings” are killing our productivity, and our waistline as well. From now on, I’m making 90% or more of my meetings either breakfast or early coffee. I’m killing the lunch meeting, and the “let’s get together for drinks” meeting. Want to meet up for advice? For a brain-pick? For basic networking? I’m happy to do it. But we’re going to do it early.

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post called “Why you NEED to get up earlier, and how to do it.” It quickly became one of my most -read posts. Seems like a lot of people wanted to know why to get up early, and how to do it. I’m taking it a step further today.

I submit to you: My productivity (And I’ll bet yours as well) is nowhere near as strong as it could be because of lunch meetings, “let’s meet for drinks,” and dinner meetings. We’re interchanging the concept of eating/entertaining with the concept of getting work done, and it’s killing us. I’m making a vow to stop that, at least for myself.

Before every sales guy who is expected to take his clients to dinner gets all up in my grill about this, let me clarify: Yes, there are specific industries where “taking the client to lunch” (or dinner) is expected. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about “let’s meet and see what we can do together” meetings, the ones that, even though they’re scheduled for 30 minutes, wind up taking two hours out of your day with packing up, travel, one or both people being late, getting back, getting back into the work mindset, etc. Those are the productivity killers.

So. Here’s what I propose:

Want to meet with me? Let’s do it. I’m happy to meet with you before 9am, any day of the workweek, and heck, even on early Saturday mornings. Keep reading to see why it’s worth it for both of us.

I’ve always been an early riser. There’s something magical about being up before the rest of the world, and it lets me get SO much more done, from working out to blogging, from reading the news of the day to discovering the latest trends. On any given day, chances are I’ve done all that before 6:30am.

Morning!Since having a kid, my morning “productivity time” has become even more precious to me. My kid usually wakes up at around 7am (God Bless the child who likes to sleep in… – But not the adult.) So I wake up around 4am. I’m dealing with what happened overnight until around 5am. This could be clients on the other side of the world, or the markets in Asia, or even just catching up on the series finale of Dexter. (Which, by the way, was a WASTE of my productivity time, thank you.) 5am I hit the gym or the park for a workout, run, or ride. Back by 6:30, showered and dressed by 7am. Then I get to wake up my kid, give her the first bottle, sing to her, etc. then I’m out of the apartment by 7:30am.

Those three hours between 4am and 7am are MINE to do what I WANT. I can work. I can play with my daughter. I can exercise. And I can meet YOU. I’m a better person because I’m up when most people are not. (Note, I didn’t say “better person than YOU,” I just said “better person.” I’m not comparing myself to anyone.)

But here’s the problem. So I get into the office by what, 8:30am or so, and then sit down. I get to work for an hour or so, and then, “oh, coffee meeting at 10am down the street, I better pack up to get there on time.”  Make my 10am coffee, finish at 10:30, back in the office by 11, work for 30 minutes, then have to pack up to go to a lunch meeting. It’s now 2:30 when I’m back in the office, and before I know it I’m packing up to leave for “someone who wants to meet over drinks,” (which is ironic in itself since I quit drinking several months ago,) then it’s dinner, now it’s 10:30 and I’m just getting home, which is brutal since I’m up at… you guessed it, 4am.

So… Want to meet with me? If you can get up early to meet me at the gym, or in Central Park, or even for egg whites and coffee at the Plaza or local greasy spoon by 7am, I’m yours. But if you want to connect at 3pm “for coffee and a catch-up,” probably not.

Here’s why:

1) Early meetings separate those who want to meet from those who REALLY want to meet. If you really believe we can do something mutually-beneficial together, and REALLY want me to listen, you’ll sacrifice a few hours of extra sleep to meet with me early. If sleep is more important to you, that’s cool – But that’s not how I work.

1a) My brain is better picked early. I’m almost always available for a first meeting with someone who just wants to “pick my brain.” But, if I’m giving you my time, and possibly some good contacts, for free, it has to be on my terms, so it has to be early. You’d be AMAZED how many people (especially people just starting out in the work-world) turn down my offer to meet early. It’s like, “dude, it’s free advice, and possible introductions to a new job, all you have to do to get it is get up earlier than normal ONE TIME.”

2) Leave me to think about you. If we meet early and the meeting is good, you know what I’m going to be thinking about for a few hours into my day? YOU! I’ll research you, Google you, put you on my watch list. Want me to invest in your startup? Wouldn’t you prefer I think about you all day, vs. go home and drop into a food coma and not remember you the next morning?

3) The market makers meet early. “Lunch? Come on, Marty. Lunch is for wimps!” Gordon Gekko said that in the movie Wall Street. While I don’t agree with his business tactics, I do believe he was right here. I can do more work in my office or on my laptop during my lunch hour than I can in a crowded deli or restaurant. And for lunch, the restaurants ARE crowded. Which brings me to:

4) At breakfast, the restaurants aren’t crowded, and the people who are there are the RIGHT people. I made one of the biggest deals of my life because I was at the same diner at 7am twice a week, and so was an investor. We eventually introduced ourselves to each other. Good luck doing that at the local Cosi at 12:45pm.

5) Healthy people prefer to hang out with healthy people. Unhealthy people tend to prefer the same thing. I’m not suggesting that those who go for “drinks” every night are unhealthy, nor am I putting anyone down for living the way they choose. I’m not about that. I’m just saying that give me two startup founders, both exactly the same except that one works out and takes care of himself, and the other doesn’t, the chances are good that the one who takes care of himself gets up earlier. As such, I’ll wind up meeting him before I meet the one who sleeps in.

6) You can make me better at everything I do, and I can do the same for you. I’m cycling a few times a week with the head of social for a giant PR/Marketing Agency. He and I not only talk shop during our 90-120 minute, 24-36 mile rides, but we also push each other on the pavement. He pushes me to get faster on the flats, I push him to get faster on the hills. End result? We’re both improving our health, improving our times, and we’re networking the CRAP out of each other before 95% of the world is up.

Night!7) I have to go to bed early. I force myself to do it, and it’s healthy. I’m not saying I don’t occasionally go out for special things – specific networking events of value, some parties, etc… Of course I do. But let’s face it – The majority of networking events are bullshit, the majority of “free open bar” events are nothing more than a free open bar and no good networking, and the majority of “let’s meet for drinks” meetings are nothing more than excuse to get hammered via a tax write-off. I’m not against a good gathering of friends or business associates to hoist the occasional pint. I think it’s awesome. But the “hey, let’s grab a drink and catch up” requests, more often than not, simply aren’t worth the time it’s going to take away from doing business. But early? Before the world starts working? I’ll meet you Every. Single. Time. And if I know I’m meeting you, I’ll go to sleep early to do it. I’ll be refreshed when we meet, and firing on all my cylinders. Who’s really firing on all cylinders at 6pm after a full day in the office?

8) Lastly: I read this blog post before posting it, I realize it could be construed as a “This is what I do, and if you don’t do it this way, you’re wrong” post. It’s not. Lord knows, my way of living isn’t for everyone. (Just ask my wife.) But it works for me, and if I want to be the best I can, this is how I do it. This isn’t a shaming of anyone. I have no problem with how anyone lives their lives, as long as they’re not hurting others or animals. (I’ve got my asbestos suit on for some of the comments I know I’m going to receive, regardless…) In the end, I’m just saying that for me, this is what works. If you want to meet with me, I’m always up for it. All I ask is that you see the benefit in doing it early.

For a great list of HOW to start teaching yourself how to get up early, see this post. 

Comments? As always, I want to hear them. Fire away below, and as always, thanks for reading.

PS: Even CJ Cregg knew it was about early mornings:

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