A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings and Life
Life gets busy. Has What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam been sitting on your reading list? Instead, learn the key insights now.
Laura Vanderkam’s Perspective
Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time-management and productivity books, including Juliet’s School of Possibilities, Off the Clock, and I Know How She Does It. Her work has appeared in publications including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and Fortune. She hosts the time-management podcast Before Breakfast and co-hosts the podcast Best of Both Worlds with Sarah Hart-Unger, which looks at building the perfect balance between family and career. Her blog, LauraVanderkam.com, is a combination of the two, focusing on her own experiences. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and five children.
How do you spend your morning? Did you know your morning routine can improve your productivity throughout the day? What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast looks at how you can follow in the footsteps of successful people to maximize your day.
StoryShot #1: Start Your Day With the Things That Matter Most to You
“You don’t build the life you want by saving time. You build the life you want, and then time saves itself. Recognizing that is what makes success possible.”— Laura Vanderkam
Mornings can be one of the most hectic times of the day. But, if you plan your mornings effectively, you can make sure you are using this time to focus on the things that matter most to you. Instead of postponing essential tasks, schedule them for the start of your day. You might feel another time would be better for this task, but daily pressures will often get in the way, and the task will be left undone. So, instead of postponing these critical tasks, you should fit them into the start of your day.
We all have things we care about but struggle to fit into our day. For example, you might rank exercise, reading, or a particular long-term project as your most crucial task. It is easy to let daily chores distract you from this.
James Citrin leads a headhunting agency. James interviews several high-flying executives to learn about their daily morning routines. Eighteen out of the twenty executives interviewed shared one common factor: they all got up before 6 a.m. every day. Early starts are a common feature for successful individuals.
Steve Reinemund is the former CEO and chairman of PepsiCo and the current dean of the School of Business at Wake Fort University. Steve gets up at 5 a.m. for a four-mile run. Then, he has quality time for himself, either reading or praying. Then, Steve has a healthy breakfast with his children. He will keep this routine wherever he goes. For example, if Steve is traveling, he will only stay in hotels with a treadmill. He makes this decision so that he can maintain his four-mile run routine.
Waking up early is easier said than done. Yet, the key to waking up this early is willpower and making it a habit. Both of these can be developed.
StoryShot #2: Spend Your Morning Nurturing Your Career
Nurturing your work life is not about responding to emails as they land in your inbox. Instead, it is about attending activities that you rarely have enough time to do on your average day.
Debbie Moysychyn is an organizational healthcare executive helping Brand University build its healthcare education department. She wanted to foster a collaborative, open-door culture in her office, so her colleagues could pop in for a chat whenever they wanted. This was effective in improving her colleagues’ efficiency. But, these short meetings reduced the time she had for her daily tasks. Outstanding tasks built up until she did not have enough time for the most critical projects. Debbie’s solution was to free up her mornings to get these tasks done. This allowed her to focus on the task at hand without the worry of continual interruption. She spent the rest of the day helping her colleagues and working on more significant projects.
StoryShot #3: Spend Your Morning Nurturing Your Relationships with Others and Yourself
Relationships with Others
Careers are undoubtedly important. Yet, your relationships with others and yourself are more significant. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by your daily work. You might arrive home feeling too tired to spend quality time with your friends and family. The morning is the perfect time to engage with your family or to have some time to self-nurture. There are many ways that you can make the most of your morning, spanning various relationships:
- Have sex at dawn with your partner.
- Make sure your whole family has breakfast around the table together.
- Cook exciting lunches with your family that you will all eat later.
- Go on a morning walk in your local park with your partner or family.
Kathryn Beaumont Murphy exemplifies how mornings can support your relationship with others. Kathryn is a busy tax lawyer with a stacked schedule involving many late nights. These late nights prevented her from spending enough quality time with her daughter, as the law firm rewarded late hours rather than early starts. So, the mornings were generally quiet. Kathryn decided to start going to bed earlier to add a couple of hours to her day in the morning. She would replace these hours at night with a few hours in the morning. This allowed her to spend quality time with her family. This decision has rubbed off on her family. They now all rise early and try to ensure breakfast is a special time for them.
Relationship with Yourself
“Before the rest of the world is eating breakfast, the most successful people have already scored daily victories that are advancing them toward the lives they want.”— Laura Vanderkam.
Self-care is the third pillar for a more balanced life. It is arguably the first thing we sacrifice when life gets too busy. Again, the morning offers a fantastic opportunity to free up time for self-nurture. There are multiple ways that you can nurture yourself:
- Train for a marathon
- Read more
- Write poetry
- Go on a bike ride
StoryShot #4: Track Your Time and Imagine Your Ideal Morning
It is also essential to ask yourself how you can start implementing a morning routine. There are two steps to follow to make this easier.
You can start making your morning more productive by tracking the time you spend on specific tasks over the week. A week consists of 168 hours. Although this might seem like a lot, this time can waste away if you do not understand where that time is going. This is where time management becomes so important. The problem with time management is it is rarely about how you spend your mornings. Instead, it is about what you do with the rest of your day.
One act that can have a detrimental effect on your morning is your bedtime. Late nights can prevent you from waking up early. Additionally, they can also leave you feeling unproductive when you do wake up early. A good night’s sleep is integral to the efficiency of your morning routine. It is easy to fall into the trap of staying up late. For example, you could watch TV and lose track of time or remember a task you forgot to do that day. But burning the candle at both ends isn’t a sustainable approach. Staying up late to finish a job you forgot about will only reduce tomorrow’s efficiency.
Tracking your time allows you to identify which tasks keep you up late. Are these tasks essential, or can you fit them in earlier in the day? You can free up an hour or two early in the day once you understand where your time is going. Use a notebook to identify areas where you can save time. Freeing up time will ensure you get a good night’s sleep and have a couple of hours for your ideal morning.
You should aim to visualize your ideal morning. Doing so will help motivate you to get a good night’s sleep and wake up early. Vanderkam’s perfect morning routine is as follows:
- Get up at 6:20 a.m., unless she feels like having early morning sex.
- If she does not desire sex, she will go on her run 10 minutes later. She always runs for 45 minutes.
- Then, Vanderkam has a hearty breakfast with the whole family. She ensures this is a sit-down breakfast around the dining table. Vanderkam and her family use this time to catch up and have meaningful conversations.
- When everybody else has left the house, Laura starts working on her book and writes an entry for her blog.
This morning won’t be your ideal morning. The important thing is that you start picturing what a perfect start to the day looks like for you.
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We rate this book 4.2/5.