The 6-hour flight to the west coast is always a pain, but it does have one huge upside. The 3-hour time difference means I pop awake that first morning by 5:30 or 6 a.m., feeling refreshed. I’m always amazed by what I can power through by 9 a.m. when I start that early. There’s time for a workout, a leisurely breakfast, and getting some work done before whatever my first meeting happens to be. If there are night owls and larks, I’m naturally more of a night owl. But mornings like those west coast mornings make me want to cross over to the lark side.
Of course, if I’m in California on business, I tend not to have my children with me. Back home, I’ve been known to wake up at 5:30 or 6 a.m. because someone’s howling to get up. This tends to feel less refreshing. Nonetheless, if the day doesn’t really start until 8 or 9, and I’m up by 6, this represents a lot of time that I’d prefer not to use mindlessly. Time passes, no matter what we do with it. Best to figure out what we can do with it, and make a conscious choice to do what works best for ourselves and the people we care about.
About a year ago, I wrote a post for what was then called BNET (now part of CBS MoneyWatch) called “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast.” I’d originally planned to call it something like “4 Ways to Use Your Mornings,” highlighting the four personal priorities that people with traditional jobs often claim they don’t have time for: exercise, quality family time, spiritual practices and creative work. I claimed that we all did have time — we just had to get up early. I got ready to file and then, in a fit of inspiration, changed the title.
Something about that #beforebreakfast title formula apparently struck a chord. Maybe we all love the idea of changing our lives before breakfast! The post went viral, scoring hundreds of thousands of reads. Even now, more than a year later, it remains one of my top read posts in any given month. So Portfolio (the company that published 168 Hours and All the Money in the World) and I decided to venture into the world of ebooks with our short guide to making over your morning and life, which is out today. I interviewed dozens of people who are up and changing the world, or at least their lives, before breakfast. I looked into the science of willpower and habits, and came up with some suggestions of morning routines, and how to build them into your life.
Why cross over to the lark side? The hopeful hours before most people are eating breakfast are far too precious to be blow on semi-conscious activities. If you’re up at 6 and don’t start “real” work until 9, that’s 3 hours. That’s the equivalent of a part-time job! Certainly it would seem possible to do something with that time beyond getting ready to face the day. So what would you like to do with your mornings? What do you do now? Please share your morning routine by posting it in the comments, or emailing me, or posting it on Twitter with the hashtag #beforebreakfast. I look forward to hearing how you use the wee hours to start your day right.