Arriving early doesn’t make you better than anyone else.

By David Sangster
April 19, 2017

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “What’s your morning routine before going to work?” is written by David Sangster, executive vice president of operations at Nutanix.

I consider myself to be a disciplined and structured person in both my personal life and my work. I envision my approach as a pyramid split into three parts: health, family, and work.

Health is the foundation of my pyramid. At the end of the day, if you’re not healthy, you can’t take care of your family. And if your family life isn’t in a positive place, then you aren’t focused at work. If the foundation is weak, you can bet the entire pyramid will collapse.

To make sure I’ve got a solid base, I have built exercise into the start of my daily routine. Rain or shine, my day starts at 5:30 a.m. with a three-mile run, which typically takes me about 30 minutes. This half hour all to myself is crucial for my success. It’s where I’m able to clear my head of all the noise and really reflect on the upcoming day. I think about long-term goals, both personal and professional, and make sure whatever I’m focused on for the rest of that day directly falls in line with those priorities. Running has been a constant piece of my morning routine throughout my career, and sets me up for a more successful day.

After my run, I focus on my family. That includes some of combination of breakfast with my kids, helping them wrap up homework, and taking them to school. While what we might be doing changes slightly day to day, it’s all quality time with my family. My parents always made time for us in the morning; breakfast was the family’s time to discuss the day ahead or something you’d heard about. Religion, politics, science, adventure, and yes, even sex—nothing was off topic. This instilled in me and my siblings a confidence in our views. I try to do the same with my kids.

The last hour or so before I head into the office is focused on personal development. Currently, that includes brushing up on my calculus, since one of my sons is taking it in high school. It’s important to me that I can help answer questions he may have. I’m also spending time in the morning working on my Spanish. We’re getting ready for a family trip to Madrid, and I want to make the most of it.

All of this means I don’t usually arrive at work very early. When I do arrive, however, I am more focused, productive, and set up for long-term success.

My advice to young professionals is to not focus on being the first into the office. Of course, on some days you may have to be in early. But that doesn’t mean you can’t design a specific routine that works best for you on most days. As part of this, make sure you’re taking care of your health, finding time to clear your head, and participating in activities that work toward achieving your personal goals.

As legendary General Electric CEO Jack Welch put it, “There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.”

You have to question what you’re willing to sacrifice and what you aren’t. Find the right pyramid for you and build your morning routine around it. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

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