What I do before breakfast

My first official ebook, “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast,” will be coming out on June 12. This is a new genre for me, clocking in at about 10,000 words and priced as a magazine ($2.99). I welcome any suggestions on how to spread the news about its release (email me – lvanderkam at yahoo dot com – or post in the comments).

I’ve long been fascinated by people who manage to use their mornings well. For all except a few confirmed night owls, mornings are a great time to tackle projects that are important but not urgent — that aren’t immediately externally rewarded. We tend to wake up with a fresh supply of willpower. That discipline will get exhausted over the course of the day as we deal with annoying colleagues, traffic and bickering children, but in the morning, we can tackle the world. So what should we do with that time?

I profile people who do all kinds of things: creative work, spiritual disciplines, family time, exercise, thinking. And as usually happens when I write a lot on a topic, I start thinking about how to put it into practice in my own life as well.

These days, my 7-month-old daughter is waking up with the sun at around 6 o’clock. My nanny shows up at 8 a.m. three days a week, and I usually bring the older children to school at 8:45 on Thursdays and Fridays, finishing the preschool run around 9. There is a lot of time between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. Three hours! This is a lot of time to spend mindlessly. And yet, if I don’t think about how I’m spending it, “mindless” is exactly how I’d describe those hours. This morning I tried to think about it a little more. I woke up at 6 a.m. with the baby and fed her. I got dressed and at 6:45 handed her over to my mother-in-law (who is mercifully visiting us again). Then I went for a half hour run. Back home at 7:15, I played with the kids on the floor a little — they’re so cute when they’re all hugging each other! — and helped with breakfasts. We ate in a leisurely fashion, and then I helped the boys get dressed around 8. Then we all went down to the basement to play for another 20 minutes or so before it was time to load the car (I’ll admit I started checking email in the basement — my excuse is that my workday normally starts at 8). I chatted in the car with the boys and then came home and — after a little more baby time — got started blogging. I like to do my creative, focused work early in the day. I’m also brainstorming how to promote the ebook, and mornings are great for thinking.

So at T+4 hours from starting the day, I’ve had quite a bit of relaxed family time, got a run in, and written a blog post. I think that’s pretty good. I’m trying to be more disciplined about making that happen on other days too, given various other constraints (I don’t always have another adult in the house).

What do you do with your mornings? What would you like to do with your mornings?

70 thoughts on “What I do before breakfast

  1. I have way less will-power in the mornings… this cuts both ways. I’m much less able to come up with ways to procrastinate.

    So if there’s something I’ve been avoiding or putting off, if I have a schedule telling me that I’m spending from 8am-9am doing it, then I actually spend from 8am-9am doing it. When I’m all Boiced up, my mornings tend to go right on schedule and my afternoons end up a bit fuzzier, but that’s ok.

    If I don’t… well, then I tend to surf the internet.

    Today my schedule is all messed up, so I’m definitely not Boicing. Hence the random internet surfing.

    (Before I get to work, I eat breakfast while checking the internets, get dressed, make lunch, and take DC to school.)

    Where does Boicing come from?: nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2010/08/30/blogging-boice/

    1. @N&M- I think I Boice. I guess I just never knew that was what it was called 🙂 When you’ve got a big project, you just keep writing. If you need to write an 80,000 book, if you write 800 words for 100 days, you will have 80,000 words. They’ll suck, but editing is a different matter.

      1. Yikes! If I took 100 days to write a book I’d be out of business. Usually I have about 5 weeks to write a 75K word book. But I like your idea and wish you a lot of success with this ebook. I think the Yahoo News story will help sales a lot. I am an early riser too and I’m always interested in what other people do with their mornings. I scan the newspapers, read and write emails, and watch the news. If it’s nice outside I’m in the garden.

        1. @Karen – really? You must be quick Yep, the Yahoo story is sending a lot of people over here. Being outside is a great way to start the day. Even sitting on the back porch with some coffee feels decadent in summer.

  2. I’m looking forward to your new book!

    Re: ways to promote it – I think you need at least a handful of reviews on Amazon initially, and when people start buying it, it should show up on the “You Might Also Like…” list. I find useful nonfiction eBooks all the time that way.

    ALso the usual suspects – blogs, Twitter, Facebook. It might be worth setting up a (free) Etsy shop as well to sell your work. It’s only 20cents per listing for 4 months and a little more exposure.

    Re: your question, I want to be productive in the mornings but I cannot wake up early. Now that I’m pregnant, I seem to need a ridiculous amount of sleep (more so than usual).

    I do make it a point to try to read at least one book to my daughter before I go to work.

    But I would MUCH rather do necessary tasks in the evening than before work in the morning (packing lunches, setting out clothes, etc.)

    I’d love to reclaim some morning time for exercise or crafting, though. If I weren’t so damn tired!

    1. @ARC- fatigue goes with the territory on pregnancy. Eventually you won’t be so tired! I also find that I’m useless in the mornings during the winter. It’s only after the time change that it starts being usable time. Sun and warmth get a person out of bed. Which makes sense if you think about it.

      1. You are so right about the light – I can easily wake earlier when it’s light out in the morning. And in fact, often the sun wakes me, which is downright pleasant. (I don’t do alarms anymore unless I am catching a plane or something.)

        I’m bummed because I thought the 2nd trimester would bring me all that energy and wonderfulness, but so far, not so much 🙁

      2. Sun and warmth get a person out of bed. Which makes sense if you think about it . . .

        Tip: there is a great chance you are seriously low on

        Vitamin D3 (not D2 = worthless) when we need the sun to get us going ~ its a clear indication that
        you have used up your stores of Vit D3.
        See Dr. John Douillards Living Spa Site, he’s great and offers free articles on everything!
        Get sun w/out sunscreen daily ! 15-20 min.
        We are a nation now of Vit D3 deficients!
        and its not a vitamin at all but a Special Hormone.There is a receptor for this hormone in each and every cell we own! we were meant to be outside getting tons of it daily.
        I take a supplement of 20,000 I.U. because I was deficient too! great site!

        Always maintain only a joyful mind – –
        Pema Chodrun


  3. Right now, my mornings are pretty much consumed with kids- at least until I get to work. Once there, I do tend to have more energy for hard projects in the morning. I’m really curious how my mornings will evolve as my 2 year old eventually starts sleeping in a little more and more predictably. I may claim some of that time for exercise. Or writing time. We’ll see- I suspect I’m 6 months to a year off from getting to find out!

    1. @Cloud- So tantalizingly close! Yes! There are times with mine I can see that things will get easier soon. But then they all start screaming simultaneously.

      1. Hi, I just started simplifyparenting, on FB I don’t want to burst your bubble. About having more time or energy as your children get older. Just doesn’t happen… You actually have less time and energy as they get older. Cherish these times with them and enjoy every moment! I would suggest to realize this and plan your mornings accordingly. Like, make use of each and every available moment. Really DO take that nap with them. Read a story with them until they and you fall asleep. Then you get 20min rest. They get the full 1-2hrs. This still gives you 1/2-11/2 hrs time to get things done! Enjoy!

  4. I’m an early riser and love my mornings. Now that you mention it, before dawn is my prime time for working on my important-but-not-urgent tasks. I wasn’t doing that by design, but now that you’ve pointed it out I feel quite clever!

  5. Technically I don’t do anything before breakfast because I’m one of those people who has to EAT the moment her feet hit the floor in the morning!

    That said, this morning (after my croissant and tea of course), I was working on the computer at 6:30 publishing a podcast and doing some writing. I cherish my early morning time before the kids wake up because it may be the only time I have completely to myself that day.

    I wish the ebook was out already because I’m anxious to write a post about it!

    1. @Carrie- Yay! It will be out soon. Before you know it, as I tell my soon-to-be-5-year-old as he anxiously awaits his birthday 🙂

  6. I completely agree in theory but have a hard time putting this into practice. How does one know if one is a “confirmed night owl” and can it be changed? All I know is that I do tend to get a burst of energy at night (though less so now that I’m in my mid-30s) and, consequently, have a tough time waking up early in the mornings. It must be doable b/c PreChildren Rinna would have scoffed at what I now consider “sleeping in.” The question is, how to really do it and stick with it?

    Also, is your e-book only available on the kindle? Any other touchpad type devices?

    1. It should be available for all major ebook formats: kindle, nook, iPad. I’ll post all the links once I have them.

      I, too, prefer to work at night but that is hard to pull off with my current life. So I’ve been taking a good look at mornings. But I actually wrote most of this ebook in a coffee shop at night.

  7. So, weirdly enough, I wake up early because I am not a morning person. Bear with me here, because it does make sense. There is nothing I hate more than waking up and instantly having to talk to someone. This is a bit of a problem when you have a husband and two kids, so I wake up at 5, shower, make coffee, unload the dishwasher and check email. Then when everyone else wakes up I am ready for them. Otherwise,they all know to avoid direct eye contact. 🙂

    1. @Kelly- that sounds like quite an elaborate project to avoid family crankiness! I’m not sure I’d be so good about it. I’m not particularly a morning person either. It’s just that life circumstances are forcing me to be one.

  8. I recently started waking up earlier in order to be a more productive person. I used to be a reckless night owl back in college and there were times when I’d stay up late for the sake of just staying up! But ever since I started working professionally and my wife and I welcomed our first child, I made the switch to wake up earlier. I have to admit that the transition process was extremely difficult at first, but after a month of forcing myself to get out of bed I finally developed a healthy habit of getting up at 5:30! I now go to the gym and eat a hearty breakfast before 7:30 and I’m at work by 8. I find that working out in the morning keeps me energized throughout the day, at least until I get home. Awesome blog and I’ll be sure to spread the word about your e-book =)

  9. Laura, I want your book; just what I need. yearn to be a morning person! I’d love to interview you for my Coaching Mums community. You have my email via this comment. Hope to hear from you! When will book be out in UK?

    1. @Amanda- I’m checking with the publisher on when Amazon might have it in the UK. Can you check if you can get it via Google Play? That seemed to be one version that looked international (one can pay via Google wallet). Thanks so much for being interested in it!

  10. Congratulations on your new book. I start my morning at 5:30 AM with exercise. I run down to the gym before breakfast, do an hour of spinning, elliptical or running on the treadmill. By 6:30 I am wide awake, feeling refreshed and ready to start my day. I find that I have a lot more energy throughout the day since I started this routine, and by 10:30 PM I am ready for bed.

    1. @Cathy- that sounds like a great morning. I am still working on the getting-into-bed ontime routine. 10:30 just feels early. But I’m working on it.

  11. I practice jiu jitsu. The gym down the street had a 630am class. By the time I got to work at 8am, which was still early, I had already completed a grueling workout and was ready to start my day. Waiting until evening to do the same class is okay, but I would lose out on the fat-burning metabolic boost associated with am workouts, not to mention (actually I AM mentioning it:) the positive mental track I put myself on by getting organized in the morning.

    1. @Tom – exactly! If you get a tough workout in during the AM hours, you feel like you can conquer the world. You’re set up for success!

  12. Since I read Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich”, 30 years ago I have been fascinated with studies on the habits of successful people. My favorite has always been a speech by Albert E.N. Gray, “The Common Denominator of Success”. I am looking forward to reading yours.

    Since the beginning of the year I have changed my morning schedule. Up at 5:00AM the off to the gym. Weights, cardio, then off to work by 7:30AM. I’m early so I spend the morning ready stock trading bogs and prepare for any changes in trade strategy for the day. Found your article, it made my morning. 9:00AM time to do the work that pays the bills

    1. @Dale- so glad my piece made your morning, and thanks for checking out the ebook as well. I like the idea of the time after 9 being time to do work that pays bills. The time before that? Time to pay yourself.

  13. Waking up and thanking God for another beautiful day is the first thing I do. Secondly giving myself a positive affirmation something like ” I am a wonderful person and I am appreciated for who I am” that usually gets my day started. Thirdly, I kiss the most important 2 people in my life my kids and tell them I am blessed to have them…. Then I’m ready to take on the world. Nothing but good things will follow me surely.

    1. @Alicia- starting the day with positive thoughts does seem to make the rest of the day more manageable. I’m trying to do that myself. Takes practice!

  14. Dose anyone have a time log or day planner sheet, they like and use to keep track of the hrs in your day?? If so please share. I have things planned out and by 10 am the order is so mixed up i loose all i had planned for the day.:(

    1. I use a Steno pad, To Do on one side, notes on the other, back of page, food consumption, and exercise, for comparison…

    2. Look up http://www.plannerpads.com. I love their “funnel” system that goes from a weekly (or general) to-do list to a daily to-do list to times for appointments. The planner includes places for notes, monthly calendars and a phone number list. No, I don’t work for them! The system really works, but may be pricey for some people. If so, try to capture the format and print it off every day.

    3. @Denise- for Denise and anyone else looking for a way to track their hours, I have a spreadsheet you can download (I send it to your email). Just go to the 168 Hours button on the right of these pages, and then on the 168 Hours page there’s a button that says “Manage your time.” Follow those instructions and you’ll get the spreadsheet. But you can easily make your own too. Just use excel and block out 168 hours (24 x 7).

  15. I retired three years ago at age 54. We have a soon to be 17 year old in high school. I find myself having less motivation to work out. I have a trainer I see two mornings a week at 9 am. If I didn’t have a trainer I probably would not work out as much. I look forward to your book on getting myself going in the mornings.

    1. @Peggy- A trainer is a great idea, because it’s often easier to keep commitments to other people (particularly if money is involved!) than to ourselves. One of these days I’d like to hire a trainer too. Good luck with your morning routine.

  16. What about us confirmed night owls? I truly start to get energy as the sun goes down. I can be wiped all day and as the evening starts I feel better. My peak is 10pm. Unfortunately I work the usual 8-5 job. Waking up is literally the hardest thing I do every day. The second is forcing myself into bed during my energy burst lol.

  17. The morning…hummm, personally I get more accomplished before 9am than I do between 6pm-10pm. I adjusted my working hours when I recognized I just do not participate or engage in any type of “meaningful task” at the end of a workday. I start at 6am to brewing coffee via auto coffeemaker…pure perfection. While drinking my coffee I tend to bill pay or any mundane paperwork, I then workout for ~1 to 1.5 hrs, then clean some part of my apt, or tackle some “other” project I’m determined needs completion, I then prep for work, and catch the news/weather, feed the cat and I’m off…I had to learn to utilize my time. At one time (over a 5yr pd) I traveled 110 miles round trip to work plus 3 kids and a grandson at home. By learning to utilize those hrs (everyone has moved on) I have become very successful in my career, and continue to be successful by continuing to utilize early morning for “getting it together” before I ever step a foot in my office. The greatest reward is at day end and week end, I’m am free of worry and those mundane tasks that fill our head and eat up free time in order to just “be”…life is good…

  18. I use to wake up at 4am to go to work, since my schedule changed to start at 8am, I have had a problem with energy. So I’m going to get back to waking up early to get stuff done and add some exercising. I want to work on my things to do list…Critical now: only 5 items you have to finish before the end of the work day, no matter what. Opportunity Now: no more than 20 items that you can do throught out the day when there is time. Over the Horizon: as many items you want on it. The Ctrical gets checked every hour, opportunity gets checked once a day and so on. Then opportunit ietms get moved up and so on. And get on The Ellen Show, do what every it takes. Good Luck, but short to the point is what people need.

  19. I love this and want to read your eBook, but I don’t have a Kindle. Is there a way I can still get it?

    1. @Musette and all other kindle and nook-less readers: you can download the Kindle app for free from Amazon to your smartphone, laptop or desktop computer and then order my ebook for reading via the app. Just google “Kindle app” to get Amazon’s page with download instructions. Thanks so much for your interest in the book!

  20. I suggest you contact the wonderful people at http://www.wow-womenonwriting It’s a magazine style website with articles and tips on writing, book release announcements coupled with interviews and/or articles written about or by the spotlighted authors. They also have a terrific blog called The Muffin that I believe would be interested in interviewing you. This website had appeared in Writer’s Digests 100 best websites for the last five years. Good luck with your ebook. I hope it’s available through Amazon so I can pick it up for my beloved Kindle. GOOD LUCK!

    1. @Lori- definitely available in Kindle. Also Nook and all other e-reader formats (plus you can download it to cloud readers to read in your browser). Anyone with a computer or smart phone can read this book! Thanks – I will check out The Muffin blog.

  21. I noticed this link goes to Amazon. Do you have links yet to buy this for Nook or ipad? Will Amazon block those links to promote Kindle? If so, how can I find the links? I want to buy it for myself and as a gift ebook to send to someone else… thanks!

  22. What a bunch of hooey! You act like night owls are lazy and don’t get anything done, or don’t have the motivation… BS! I don’t want to do anything in the morning but sleep. I want to roll out of bed zombi-fied and groggy. I want to drink coffee and muddle through my day, because at around 3pm, my blood starts pumping and I get energized… after work is when I run, clean, do errands and have the energy to do it all. Believe me people, you don’t need to get up at the crack of dawn to enjoy life or get stuff done, so stop belittling night owls, thank you very much!

  23. I usually write “Morning Pages” as part of practicing The Artists Way program designed by Julia Cameron as a method of freeing creativity. I am not a “morning person” so writing three pages of longhand can take a half hour to 45 minutes. It is sometimes interspersed with zoning out, writing lists, making diagrams or taking care of things that come to mind as I write.

    1. @Jennifer – at some point I would like to make morning pages more of a morning ritual for me — at least during my first work hour at my desk. Blogging has some element of that, though, in that I really put whatever I want up here. Although I try to be semi-coherent…

  24. In other words, night owls are doomed.

    It sucks when I can NOT fall asleep until 5 or 7 *in the morning*, and can only start the day after everything’s closed.

    And I work for myself thankfully, but most jobs for night owls are dead end jobs.

    We really got gypped genetically. And there’s no cure.

    And no, light therapy isn’t a cure, it’s only a coping treatment that has recently been found to be dangerous for the eyes due to the strength/type of lights emitted.

    It’s called Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder. I’m going to one day buy my own island and commercialize and economize it JUST for night owls.

    Just wait!

    1. @HootHoot – I’m kind of a night owl too. The problem is that, as you point out, it’s just logistically difficult to work a “normal” job and favor late night hours. In college I worked some night jobs like working in a cafe, or running the visitor/security desk at the student center. But I could do that then. Less so now. People expect to talk by phone and have meetings and such between 8 and 6.

  25. Hi, I also looking to read your book.
    What I usually do in the morning: 6am I work up to prepare for my boy school stuff, i.e pack his bags, etc. 6.15am My 8 mth old daughter will wake up, I make milk and feed her. 6.30am I hand some of clothes which I washed the night before. 7am wake my son up and eat breakfast with him. 7.15am fetch my son to school, my daughter to my mum in-law house and drop my wife off near her office or train station. I report to office or client place about 8.30am with my packed breakfast.
    What I would like to do beside those mentioned? I would to spend sometime for morning workout or a run. Or even wash my car.

  26. I just bought your book, we had just our second baby and I feel the days I don’t have time for anything except going to my office, I hope your book help me to manage better my mornings. Thank you.

    1. @Cesar – congrats on the new baby! Life is a little crazy for a while with 2 little ones but eventually it calms down. Having kids made me get serious about time management — because they take time and they’re also worth the time!

  27. When I was little, I would get up very early. Over time, I grew into a night owl. After reading your post, I look forward to checking out your book and getting back to an early morning schedule. I hope you have some good tips on how to change from night owl to morning lark.

  28. I am a night owl and my husband is an early morning person. Been married 33 years and I would love to be an early bird. I have had health problems for 5 years and have less energy, sleep problems, etc. I’m a procrastinator, perfectionist, which doesn’t help. I need HELP but don’t know how do I get your book? Thank you!!!

    1. @Hollie- Thanks for visiting my site! You can get the book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com or for iPad. If you don’t have an e-reader, you can also download the Kindle app to your computer and then order the book to read right in your browser.

  29. I’m a night person and my other half is a morning person.. I have a very hectiv day and my job has deadlines. I got up early this morning and still did not touch work or feel up to doing housework. My son will be going to a new school in the fall and the kids have to be there by 7;45 am. Where do I start and is it possible to change a night owl to become an earlly morning person.? By the way my son is also a night owl!

  30. I am a CONFIRMED night owl!!! I am desperatly trying to get more out of my mornings, and get to bed at a resonable hour. I just started running last week, that seems to help me get up out of the bed. I look forward to your book, and im glad its an e-book. I only read e-books at this point!

    1. @Joslyn- thanks, I hope you enjoy the book. Running is a great reason to get out of bed in the morning. I love running in summer mornings when the world is just waking up…

  31. This ebook is perfect.. i was just thinking about how to make good use of my morning time and was wondering how successful people do with theirs. I believe that we all need a good nights rest so that we can function effectively in the morning. But until now, i have not been successful at maximizing my time. Just recently i took up the sport of triathlon so that i get to exercise by either running, swimming or cycling very morning. But then, my work and father duties escalated. Now i am lost again. I hope this book has the answers to my predicament. More Power on your book..

  32. I don’t think I fit anywhere. Sometimes I can stay awake all night and sleep the whole day, or wake up at 4-5am and start my day with a running session. But I feel terrible when my sleeping patterns just flip over. I wake up at 4 one morning and next I go to bed at 4am the next day. I love mornings and I can do lots of things, but also nights are beautiful and cool.

    But I realized that for me at least it is healthier to sleep early and wake up early. I usually sleep during daytime as well for 2-3 hours.

  33. Linux users with no Kindle, and I don’t want to read on my phone?

    Sorry, you’re SOL. I was going to buy it too 🙁

    1. Wait, that’s not true. I thought that would be a huge omission by Amazon. Just purchased, looking forward to it 🙂

      Still would appreciate a plain PDF option, but that’s OK.

      Looking forward to the read, I’ve been getting up super early but sometimes have trouble lighting my flames quickly!

  34. Laura, I have gone back and forth with early mornings (I have to be at work at 7, so early for me means 4:30 ish) and have found I can only get up consistently early when I have 8 hours of sleep. Now I am married to a chemist/musician who views getting to bed before 11:00 as old foggie-ish and generally for the birds. It is difficult to mesh different sleep types and remain intimately connected, if you get my drift, so I’ve started sleeping later in order to stay up for him. I hope your book addresses this very real dilemma. Thanks for your bright words!

    1. @Carol – so true! I don’t really discuss the problems of being married to someone with a different schedule in the book, but I think in general, you have to schedule in time for being intimately connected, sad as that may sound. Actually, I don’t think it sounds sad. Scheduling it in means you can look forward to it.

  35. I LOVE the early mornings-and currently it’s about 4am Monday through Friday. It is my time. I grab a cup of coffee, sit on the patio (if it’s cool enough) or in the great room, and listen to the stillness. It’s a great way to let my mind roam, to both the important and the insignificant. Even the insignificant is critically important-it is your soul talking to you. Listen to it. It will guide you

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