Before Breakfast

A while back, Cloud at Wandering Scientist wrote about how she had changed up her morning routine after she read a short book called What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings–and Life by Laura Vanderkam. Her post motivated me to buy the book, and I finally got around to reading it this past weekend. 
The book – which took about 30 minutes to read – gives some great advice on how to make the most of the time before breakfast, and why we should take advantage of that time. A couple quotes to summarize:
“…tasks that require self-discipline are simply easier to do while the day is young.”
“…willpower, like a muscle, becomes fatigued from overuse.”
“There seems to be a general pattern that major self-control failures and other bad decisions occur late in the day.”
The more I read, the more I could really understand where Vanderkam was coming from. I have all sorts of motivation in the morning to want to try new things, to bring exercise into my daily routine, to take up drawing, or the piano, or running. But, everything falls to shit once I get home from work and get through the dinner/bath/bedtime routine. Who hasn’t started off the day feeling like you can take on the world, only to end up on the couch at 7:30pm, exhausted, with a big bag of chips and some M&Ms nearby? It just makes plain sense that, if you want to incorporate something new into your life, to do it when you’re feeling the most positive and motivated.
Vanderkam overviews five steps to take to start spending your time better:
1. Track your time – how do you spend your time? Are you using it efficiently? Are there things you can do to free up time? Are there mundane tasks that can wait until later in the day so you can do the more important things earlier?
2. Picture the perfect morning – what would you do with your morning time if money, logistics, or anything else wasn’t an issue? 
3. Think through the logistics – once you know what you want to do, how can you make that happen?
4. Build the habit – start slow, so you don’t burn yourself out. Begin by introducing one activity for about a month before doing another. Wake up 15 minutes earlier for one week, then continue to wake up earlier, so as to not shock your system. It’s okay “to use bribery at first.” (I like that one!) 🙂
5. Tune up as necessary – Life will change, and so might your new routine, and that’s okay!
This book as inspired me to try this out. My big goal right now is to introduce exercise back into my life, and I’ve had a hell of a time doing it. I have all the good intentions in the world, but fitting it in during the workday doesn’t fly when I have impromptu meetings, TAs that need help, or teachers wanting to talk about our programs. After dinner doesn’t work because, let’s be honest, I’m exhausted and just want to crash with a book or in front of the TV. 
So, my plan is to utilize the mornings that DH wakes up with Evan (we alternate mornings). On those mornings, I plan to get up at about 6:20am – which is actually quite reasonable – and go for a walk or bike-ride. The other mornings, I will spend with Evan as I normally do.
Not sure what I’ll do when it starts to get dark and/or cold, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. I’ll update in about a month with how I’m doing at the end of each week with how I’m doing!
As for the book – I highly recommend it for anyone who is looking to make the most of their time. I give the book a 4/5, because I wish it was longer 😀

Edited to add:
A friend of mine started waking up earlier in the mornings to work out. Now, she uses that time to do all sorts of things – like prep for that night’s dinner, do laundry, and clean up the house. Here’s what she has to say about it:

“I’m totally a morning convert now. I always used to sleep til the last possible second, but no more!! I’m too addicted to how much easier nights are with less to do.”


Comments on: "Before Breakfast" (8)

  1. Thanks for this, Alyssa! It sounds really good. Good luck with your goals, please do let us know how it goes!

    I get stuck in the same rut. My roadblock, though, would be getting up earlier since I am very much NOT a morning person. On days when I have to work, 6 AM is plenty early already and this coming school year, the supply call outs will begin at 5:30. The only thing I have motivation and energy for at that time of day is to curse the world for having to be awake! But I bet the same ideas can be incorporated into my routine in other ways, too. I'll have to check it out.


  2. Andrea – yeah, if you already have a super early wake-up time, it would be hard to put this into practice. But, it might be worth to log your time to see where you can make things more efficient.

    Also, I'm not a morning person either. Before Evan, I had to set my alarm if I had to be up before 9am! But, since he wakes us up around 6-6:30am anyway, this is not a huge stretch to have to do it everyday.


  3. you are inspiring me! ive been wanting to get up earlier to work out for months… right now we have a 10 week old little guy & things are still dicey with him & sleep (meaning we might be up at 3am with him or not)… im going to check that book out & use it (and you!) to get my butt in gear. part of this is getting up just an hr earlier & getting my DH used to taking care of the baby in the mornings (at least a few days a week).

    Since we've had the baby, we are up at 630 most mornings which generally means that laundry is done by 10, we both are bathed & he's back down for a nap. I love getting all of that accomplished but would love it more if there was dedicated “me” time & activities to make me feel better.


  4. Ahh… I'm not a morning person at all BUT the last 4 months (wow, 6 maybe) I've been trying out the whole “morning workout”. It's not my fave, but it doesn save a lot of time and I do feel better about myself since it's not in the time where I would do something else(aprt from sleeping and waking up). So, two or three days a week (I've not be able to do it more than that) I wake up at 5.45am and go directly to the gym. Work out and then shower, breakfast and then to work.

    The first weeks were gruesome, I was so hungry and tired in the afternoon, but eventually I learned to like it 😉 And yes, it makes for more possibilities for keep a good evening routine and you stiull get the work out in.


  5. Lisa – glad I can inspire you (and hope I can keep it up!). With a 10-week old, I think it's okay for things to slide for a while, but I get needing me-time too. Good luck!


  6. Chall – that's the great thing about using morning time, because you're not taking time away from anything else. Good for you for keeping it up!


  7. Thanks for the shout out!

    I'm still going with my morning routine- although the runs took a hit when my asthma flared up. I still try, though, and when I fail to get out of bed on time, I just let it go and do better the next day. So far, so good.

    I've also embarked on another timetracking exercise, as part of a project I'm working on. (Long story, but I want to be able to explain how I make my work and home schedules fit together, and timetracking is great for showing you what is really happening, rather than what you think is happening.) I'll be posting more on what that shows me soon.


  8. Cloud – that's great you can just let it go and get back on track if you miss a day. I'm really trying to keep that in mind this time – if I fall off course, it's okay, I can just get going again. I read your new post – great timing on that!


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