Cross Over to the Lark Side

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.

16 thoughts on “Cross Over to the Lark Side

  1. Do you have to have a kindle to order this book or can it download say right to your desktop.. alas I do not have a kindle and tried to order it this a.m. at (6:20 a.m. thank you very much 🙂
    Or you could offer it as audio book like at itunes store b/c then folks could listen to it on an early morning run?

    1. @Cara – I wish i determined whether an audio version was made. But I thought there was a kindle cloud reader that let you read on a normal computer. There is also a kindle app I think…

  2. Hi Laura:

    Is there anyway I can purchase the ebook from the UK? It doesn’t seem to be available on


    1. @Kyle, and other UK readers – I am checking on the situation with UK availability and will let you know.

  3. Hi Laura, I have read both of your books and enjoy your blog! The mornings have been significantly better this past year since waking at 5:30am to meet a friend and walk for an hour three mornings a week. By the time I’m back and my two kids (3&5) are up for school and the day, I’m showered, lunch and school things are prepped and a load of laundry has been thrown in the washer. Breakfast is ready and I’ve exercised to boot! It has helped me feel much more in control of the day and a lot less frazzled in the morning. Looking forward to reading your ebook!

    1. @Lisa- thanks so much! That sounds like a great morning routine — especially the part about meeting a friend. So you get some bonding in at the same time. Very productive!

  4. Right now with young kids, I am not doing much before breakfast. I get up around 5:45 am Monday through Friday. However, I do notice that I get so much work done from 7:30 til 9pm, before most others get into the office.

    I am normally an early bird and I do miss that “productive” period. In college, I took many early classes including exercise classes that really made me feel I had gotten a headstart on the day, even if I crashed by 10pm!

    Now, the only thing I manage to do before the kids wake up is to make tea and check emails a bit.

    1. @Oil&Garlic – agree, if you’re up with the kids, there’s only so much you can do. But that first hour at the office matters too. I’m working on a piece on this (plus a post for here). It’s not just before breakfast, it’s also once you start work — mornings still matter.

      1. My prob is I have been getting up but instead of getting on the treadmill.. I start working.. I am getting a lot of work done but not feeling so good about it b/c I am not exercising or tracking my eating… which apparently is a requirement for me to weigh in under 135 lbs.. maybe I’m just not as committed to under 135 lbs as I claim to be ! I do think whatever you start doing when you first get up the first thing is the most important.. .for me it is coffee… then what happens next is a brutal exercise in priority setting

        1. @Cara- this is always tempting for me, too, and since I’m often up early with the baby one of the easiest things to do with her around is to check email (since it’s hard to do focused stuff like writing with her needing attention). Yep, a brutal exercise in priority setting. That’s about life, isn’t it?

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