What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast –
By Laura Vanderkam,
“If it has to happen, then it has to happen first,” writes Laura Vanderkam, a time-management expert and the author of “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast.”
Those among us who have managed to find professional success and eke out a life actively embrace this philosophy. They must set aside their first hours of the day to invest in their top-priority activities before other people’s priorities come rushing in.
Science supports this strategy. Vanderkam cites the famous finding of Roy Baumeister, a Florida State University psychology professor, that willpower is like a muscle that becomes fatigued from overuse.
Diets, he says, come undone in the evening, just as poor self-control and lapses in decision-making often come later in the day. On the other hand, early mornings offer a fresh supply of willpower, and people tend to be more optimistic and ready to tackle challenging tasks.
So what do successful executives and entrepreneurs do when they are rested and fresh?
From Vanderkam’s study of morning rituals and our own research, we outline the following 14 things that the most successful people do before breakfast. While they might not do all of these things every morning, each has been found to be an effective way to start the day.
And the details:
They wake up early.
Successful people know that time is a precious commodity. And while theirs is easily eaten up by phone calls, meetings, and sudden crises once they’ve gotten to the office, the morning hours are under their control. That’s why many of them rise before the sun, squeezing out as much time as they can to do with as they please.
The bottom line: Productive mornings start with early wake-up calls.
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They drink water.
Many successful executives reach for water instead of coffee first thing in the morning. Kat Cole, president of Focus Brands, parent company of Auntie Anne’s, Carvel, and Cinnabon, wakes up a 5 a.m. every morning and drinks 24 ounces of water.
Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington and Birchbox Man chief Brad Lande start their days with a glass of hot water with lemon.
Drinking water in the morning helps you feel more alert, rehydrates your body, and kickstarts your metabolism, says Rania Batayneh, MPH, a nutritionist and author of “The One One One Diet.”
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They make their beds.
This one-minute habit can make you happier and more productive all day long.
In his book, “The Power of Habit,” Charles Duhigg writes that getting into the routine of making your bed every morning is correlated with increased productivity.
Making your bed doesn’t necessarily causeyou to get more done at work, Duhigg writes, but it’s a “keystone habit” that can spark “chain reactions that help other good habits take hold.”
In addition to being more productive, people that consistently make their beds also tend to have “a greater sense of well-being and stronger skills at sticking with a budget,” Duhigg writes.
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They exercise before it falls off the to-do list.
The top morning activity of the rich and powerful seems to be exercise, be it lifting weights at home or going to the gym.
For example, Vanderkam notes that Xerox CEO Ursula Burns schedules an hour-long personal training session at 6 a.m. twice a week. Plus, “Shark Tank” investor Kevin O’Leary gets up at 5:45 every morning and jumps on the elliptical or exercise bike, andentrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk starts every day with an hour-long workout with his trainer. “These are incredibly busy people,” says Vanderkam. “If they make time to exercise, it must be important.”
Beyond the fact that exercising in the morning means they can’t later run out of time, Vanderkam says a pre-breakfast workout helps reduce stress later in the day, counteracts the effects of high-fat diet, and improves sleep.
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They work on a top-priority business project.
The quiet hours of the morning can be the ideal time to focus on an important work project without being interrupted. What’s more, spending time on it at the beginning of the day ensures that it gets your attention before others — kids, employees, bosses — use it up.
Vanderkam uses the example of a business strategist who dealt with so many ad hoc meetings and interruptions throughout the day that she felt she couldn’t get anything done. She started thinking of the early mornings as project time, and chose a top-priority project each day to focus on. Sure enough, not a single colleague dropped in on her at 6:30 a.m. She could finally concentrate.
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They meditate to clear their minds.
Type-A personalities typically demand as much from others as they do from themselves, so it can be difficult for them to disconnect from their mental to-do lists and calm their minds. Before they head out the door, many successful people devote themselves to a spiritual practice such as meditation or prayer to center themselves for the rush of the day.
Manisha Thakor, a financial adviser and former corporate executive, practices transcendental meditation to clear her mind. She does two 20-minute sessions a day, the first before breakfast and the second in the evening, and focuses on breathing and repeating a mantra in her head. She’s found it to be “one of the most life-enhancing practices” she’s ever experienced, she told Vanderkam.
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They check their email.
While time-management gurus may suggest putting off email as long as possible, many successful people start the day with email. In fact, one recent survey found that the first thing most executives do in the morning is check their email.
They may quickly scan their inboxes for urgent messages that need an immediate response or craft a few important emails that they can better focus on while their minds are fresh.
For instance, Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project,” wakes at 6 every morning before her family’s up at 7. She uses the time to clear her inbox, schedule the day, and read social media. Getting these tasks out of the way from the start helps her concentrate better when she moves on to more challenging projects, she told Vanderkam.
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They read the news.
Whether it’s sitting in the corner diner and reading the papers or checking the blogs and Twitter from their phones, most successful people have a pre-breakfast ritual for getting the latest headlines.
For example, GE CEO Jeff Immelt starts his days with a cardio workout and then reads the paper and watches CNBC. Meanwhile, Virgin America CEO David Cush uses his mornings to listen to sports radio and read the papers while hitting the stationary bike at the gym.
By the time they get to work, they have a good idea of what’s going on in the world. Then, they can get down to the business of changing it.