Productivity tip #14: Start your day ahead of everyone else.

It’s fairly simple. If it takes me less time than you to shower, dress, and otherwise prepare for the day, I will have more free time than you. With that free time, I will have the opportunity to accomplish more, and over the long term, if this disparity persists, I will probably crush you.


It’s that simple. The more minutes you have available in the day, the more productive you will be. And I guarantee that it takes me less time to shower, dress, and otherwise prepare for the day than you.

Some statistics:

  • The majority of Americans (56%) take between 20 and 30 minutes getting ready.
  • Only 2% take less than 5 minutes and 9% spend over an hour
  • More women than men take longer to get ready, with 21% men taking over 30 minutes and 48% women doing the same.

These statistics do not include the time it takes a person to shower or bathe.

I am in the 2% of people who take less than 5 minutes to get ready, and this often includes my shower. This is the result of a few things:

  1. A regimented, streamlined routine that I adhere to daily without exception. A decade working for McDonald’s taught me the value of establishing efficient routines and sticking to them.
  2. The recognition that on my death bed, I won’t be wishing that that I had spent time in the shower, debating pants and shirt combinations, or luxuriating in front of a mirror. I won’t bemoan the time that could’ve been spent combing my hair or applying moisturizer. The 99 year-old version of me wants me to spend less time in the bathroom, and so that is what I do.
  3. An understanding that no one pays as much attention to physical appearance as we all think.
  4. The belief that the gains made by spending more time getting ready in the morning are incremental at best.

When I make this argument to people looking to improve their productivity and get more done, I’ve been told by some that the 30 or 60 minutes spent getting ready in the mornings are a welcomed respite from the rigors of the day. A time to relax.

“A time for myself".”

I would suggest that there are much better ways to relax. More productive, meaningful, and healthy ways to find respite. Activities that actually fit the definition of relaxation and respite and will ultimately prove much more beneficial to you.

If you want to relax or have time for yourself, spend the time exercising. Meditating. Reading. Walking. Petting a dog. Knitting. Spending time in nature. Listening to music. Writing. Having sex. Dancing. Drawing. Talking to loved ones.


All of these activities can provide enormous health benefits to a person, much more so than the application of makeup, the coordinating of outfits, or the fussing with hair.

I promise that if you spend ten fewer minutes on your hair every morning, the only person who will notice it is you. Streamline your routine. Eliminate wasted steps and needless products. Strive to be the person in your circle of friends and colleagues who wears the least makeup, the smallest amount of hair product, and the least cologne or perfume.

Actually, eliminate these latter items entirely. You don’t need them. Ever.

Secretly, I love the fact that so many Americans spend so much time getting ready every day. It allows me to start the daily race ahead of so many people. Most people, in fact. While they are showering and primping and blow drying, I am already moving. Doing. Making.

And I don’t waste a moment of this advantage. I’m not watching television or scrolling through Facebook.

I’m doing stuff.

You could be, too. I guarantee that it what the 99 year-old version of yourself wishes you were doing.

A surprising response to my request that women stop wearing makeup

Yesterday I wrote a post that essentially criticized women for wearing makeup. I knew that I might be stepping into a hornet’s nest with my comments, but I felt strongly enough about them to risk the sting.

Twenty-four hours later, I thought I’d update you on the reaction to the piece, because it was both plentiful and surprising:

First, every person who disagreed with my position responded in a reasoned, thoughtful, and polite manner, which is more than I can say for myself at times, so thank you.

Second, the response in general was surprising. Through Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, actual human conversation and email, the response to the post (more than 60 respondents in all) was 80/20 in favor of my position.

I was astounded.

I am also cognizant that this is probably not a true measure of opinion. Readers who disagreed with my position may have simply scoffed at my ideas and moved on, whereas women who have spent much of their life makeup-free were more likely to respond with support and appreciation.

Still, 80/20 is overwhelming.

I also heard from several women who acknowledged that on a logical, objective level, it’s true that makeup does not make sense and might even be damaging to female self esteem, but because we live in a society that deems otherwise, they will continue to wear it.

One reader said:

“It’s true that I probably only enjoy wearing makeup because I have been taught to enjoy wearing it by women before me. And I’m even willing to acknowledge that it probably doesn't help a woman’s self image. But that doesn’t change the fact that I enjoy wearing it.”

I thought this was an excellent point.

In discussing the issue with my wife last night (even though she rarely wears makeup, she was less than enthusiastic about my approach to the issue), I said, “Can’t we agree that if we had a chance to start the world all over again, we should probably start it without makeup.”

“Yes,” she said. “And that’s what you should have said that in your post.”

As usual, she makes a good point. Rather than simply criticizing women for wearing makeup and asking that they stop, it might have been more productive to take a less personal, more conceptual approach to the issue.  

I’ll also take a moment to acknowledge that a small percentage of men wear makeup as well, as at least two readers pointed out. Yes, it’s true that some men wear makeup, but I considered the the number so small that I did not feel the need to mention it in the post. Also, I hardly think that young boys are being taught to need makeup by their older male counterparts. Regardless, I wish these makeup-wearing men would remove their makeup as well.

Even more so.

Lastly, I’d like to end with a quote from a reader that I simply adored. She said:

“I don't wear make up because I feel like I'm apologizing for my face if I do.”

I suspect that I will be using that quote often.

No makeup, ladies. Please?

On an objective, logical, and unbiased level, can we all please agree that it is twisted and bizarre that men spend every moment of their public lives without a spot of makeup on their faces while many, if not most, women are uncomfortable and unwilling to even leave the house without it?

This fact alone would seem to imply that men possess a natural beauty that women do not, which is obviously not the case.

As one of many men who prefer when women do not wear makeup, this has always annoyed me. I’ve always felt that women are much more beautiful absent any makeup and that confidence is infinitely more attractive than any amount of makeup that a woman could use.

And it’s not as if the makeup goes unnoticed to the untrained eye. We all know that your lips are not that red. We all know that your cheeks are not normally that pink. Your eyelids are not naturally dusky, and yes, we can all see the concealer that you are wearing, even though no one will ever tell you so. As masterfully as it may be applied, it’s no mystery when makeup has been applied, and we all know that it’s being used to cover or enhance something that the woman does not like about herself.

As the father of a little girl, this annoyance has now moved into the realm of genuine concern. I don’t want my daughter to ever feel like she needs to wear makeup, and I know how difficult a message this will be to send with so many women walking around the world painted and caked and smeared with the stuff.

But there’s hope.

First, my wife wears almost no makeup, and on the rare occasion when she uses it, she wears very little. If Clara ends up being anything like her mother, I will consider it a victory over the forces of makeup.  

Even better, there is apparently a trend for female celebrities to post photographs of themselves without makeup.

From a recent New York Times piece on the subject:

Female stars have been rushing to publish photos of themselves without makeup. Last week, Rihanna, known for her brightly colored hair and makeup, posted a photo of herself on Twitter looking like the girl next door, makeup free and with braided pigtails. That followed a quadriptych of photos she posted several months ago, showing her looking as if she had just rolled out of bed, albeit with flawless and radiant skin.

The writer, Austin Considine, questions whether these photos are being posted as a publicity stunt, but I don’t care why they are being posted as long as the celebrities keep it up. They are promoting a positive message either way. I want more of this.

Objectively, we must realize that the only reason we think it strange or daring or unusual for a woman like Rihanna to post a photo of herself absent any makeup is because we have come to expect most women, and especially female celebrities, to be wearing makeup whenever they are in public.

But there is no innate reason for women to wear makeup. Women’s skin is not unnaturally flawed. Women’s lips are not unnaturally pale. Women’s eyelids were not meant to be blue or green or purple. There was no tragic eyelid transformation to a more fleshy color as a result of Hiroshima radiation or high fructose corn syrup.

We have come to expect women to wear makeup because women wear makeup.

Perhaps if more celebrities decided that it is somewhat sad and fairly insane for women to feel the need to spend the time and money painting their faces while their male counterparts are walking around without the same need or expectation, things could change.    

I don’t know who the hell AnnaLynne McCord is, but I am her newest, biggest fan as a result of her recent decision to post a photo of herself without makeup and her comment on the subject:

In May, the actress AnnaLynne McCord posted an unvarnished photo of herself, her face dotted with red blemishes.

“I woke up this morning and decided I’m over Hollywood’s perfection requirement,” Ms. McCord wrote in a Twitter message accompanying the photo. “To all my girls (and boys) who have ever been embarrassed by their  skin! I salute you! I’m not perfect — and that’s okay with me!”


I’m going to get this photograph and her tweet blown up into a poster, and when she’ old enough to read, I’m going to hang it in my daughter’s room. Right over her bed. I realize that I might be fighting a losing battle when it comes to makeup, but at least I’m fighting.

A recommendation, a quandary and a stupid book that belongs in the trash

The books that are most popular with our three year old daughter eventually find their way off the shelf and into a wicker basket in her bedroom. As these books fall out of favor, they eventually make their way back to the shelf, often to regain favor again months later. 

Comments on three books currently residing in this basket:


10 MINUTES TILL BEDTIME by Peggy Rathmann: I cannot say enough about this book. It’s essentially a story that teaches children to count down from ten, but the illustrations are tremendous. Clara and I have read this book more than twenty times, and I am still finding details in the illustrations that make every page new, interesting and fun. It’s the kind of book that both parents and children can mutually enjoy.



WHEN YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE by Laura Joffe Numeroff


My daughter loves these books, including this first one which launched the series, but I have never understood one thing about this book:

Why does the mouse use scotch tape to stick his picture to the refrigerator? It makes no sense. Why not a magnet? Has anyone in the history of modern-day refrigeration ever thought it a good idea to affix a piece of paper to a refrigerator with tape?


I’m not going to say the name of this book, because although I despise it with every fiber of my being, I’m not sure how we acquired it and do not want to risk offending the person who gave us this book.

It’s a non-fiction children’s book about ballet, including descriptions of ballet practice and recitals. There’s far too much text on each page for someone as young as my daughter, but it’s a series of photographs in the middle of the book that I find most objectionable:

Little girls, approximately 5-7 years old, plastered with enough makeup to make them look like sad, elderly children.

Rarely have I ever seen grown women wear the amount of lipstick and eye shadow that these little girls are wearing.

What kind of parent thinks this is a good idea?

Clara loves ANGELINA BALLERINA, so when she found this book on her shelf last week, she was thrilled. But since there is too much text on a page for her age level, I’ve been inventing a story of a more appropriate length to go along with the photographs, including sentences like:

“Look at those girls wearing all that makeup. How yucky. Those little girls must be so sad. Little girls should never wear so much makeup. It’s gross.”

I can’t remember a time in my life when I wanted to throw a book in the garbage, but this might be the one. At the very least, I plan on removing this book from my home as soon as possible lest these clown-like images of these sad children become ingrained in my daughter’s mind.