What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast cover

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast - Book Summary

And Two Other Short Guides to Achieving More at Work and Home

Duration: 26:05
Release Date: December 30, 2023
Book Author: Laura Vanderkam
Categories: Productivity, Career & Success
Duration: 26:05
Release Date: December 30, 2023
Book Author: Laura Vanderkam
Categories: Productivity, Career & Success

In this episode of 20 Minute Books, we dive into "What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast," a profound exploration of the pre-dawn habits that herald remarkable productivity and fulfillment. Author Laura Vanderkam, celebrated for her insights on time management and productivity, unpacks the morning routines of high achievers and offers tangible strategies to transform your own early hours into a foundation for success.

Vanderkam, an acclaimed American blogger, public speaker, and author with notable contributions to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, brings her expertise to this guide, ensuring that each tip is both actionable and proven. This isn't just about waking up early; it's about consciously designing a morning ritual that accommodates your most valued activities and sets a positive tone for the entire day.

Managers, parents, entrepreneurs, and anyone who feels crushed by their daily schedule will find invaluable advice within these pages. By redefining and mastering our morning routines, Vanderkam argues, we not only pave the way for enhanced workplace performance but also carve out precious time for personal growth and weekend enjoyment.

Embark on this journey with "What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast" to reclaim your mornings and reinvent your days. This book is for the busy bees yearning to buzz with purpose and for anyone aiming to seize their days before the sun even rises.

Unlock the secret of early risers: How successful people optimize their dawn

Imagine having a treasure trove of time, hidden within your own schedule, just waiting to be uncovered. It's not a fantasy — it's the reality that successful people tap into every day by harnessing the power of the morning hours.

In an ever-accelerating world, it can feel impossible to carve out moments for the pursuits that ignite your passion and drive. You've got deadlines at work, household chores, and an inbox that never sleeps. By the time the evening rolls around, you're too exhausted to do anything but collapse on the couch.

But Laura Vanderkam, a luminary in the realm of productivity, knows the golden key to unlocking a reservoir of time where you can nurture your ambitions, relationships, and well-being. It boils down to this: rise with the sun, and you unlock a vault of undisturbed opportunity.

This might seem daunting at first glance, but it's a routine that anyone can adopt with the right mindset and strategy. By being intentional with your mornings — designing a plan, embracing mindfulness, and committing to consistency — you'll find that your day can accommodate far more than mundane tasks.

In the insights to come, we will explore:

- The importance of tracking your time to foster accountability;

- Why syncing your sleep with the natural rhythms can lead to unparalleled productivity; and

- Ways to transfer your newfound morning mastery into transformative habits across all facets of life.

Seize your day before it slips away: Make mornings count

Mornings have a habit of evaporating before our eyes. The alarm clock jolts us awake and we're immediately plunged into the frenzy — herding children, scouring for misplaced keys, chugging the half-cold coffee, and then tumbling into the day's whirlwind. But what if you could recalibrate your morning to become your ally in achieving what truly matters?

It's about flipping the script on procrastination. Rather than shunting your personal projects and passions to some nebulous "later," harness the freshness of the morning to tackle them head-on. Across the globe, aspirational souls yearn for extra time to dabble in passions, hit the gym, or immerse in deep work. But too often, the mundane — emails, grocery shopping, cleaning — gobbles up our day.

Early hours are a time of tranquility, a slice of the day unsullied by the demands of others. It's where success stories often begin. Take for example, James Citrin, who delved into the morning habits of top CEOs and found a startling pattern: the majority of them were greeting the day by 6 a.m.

James Citrin himself embodies this productivity, leveraging dawn's peace for exercise and contemplation. Steve Reinemund, erstwhile head of PepsiCo, pushes the envelope further by waking at 5 a.m., dedicating his first hours to a four-mile jog, introspective moments, and then, nourishing family connection over breakfast.

If this provokes a twinge of recognition — the half-hearted attempt at a morning regimen, swiftly scuttled by the siren call of the snooze button — you're not alone. Many have tripped over this stumbling block, yet the subsequent revelations promise a way through. The linchpin of change? A robust willpower.

Mornings: The launchpad for long-term growth and accomplishment

A truly effective morning routine transcends the obligatory whirl of daily chores. Laudable as they are, activities such as laundry and replying to emails will invariably find their place in the cadence of your day. The real magic of mornings is reserved for pursuits that require an extra spark of initiative — the kind that quietly sculpt a more fulfilling future.

Consider the profound, though often incremental, impact of committing to a creative endeavor, extending your professional network, or refining a pivotal skill. These tasks might not offer instant gratification, but pursued with persistence, they hold the potential to radically transform your trajectory.

Successful individuals have decoded this. They invest their first hours into one or more of the core pillars that support a balanced, thriving life: career, personal growth, and relationships.

Focusing on career advancement during the dawn hours isn't about the reactive tasks. It's about proactively carving out time for the pursuits that invariably slip through the cracks of a packed schedule.

Take Debbie Moysychyn, for example, an organizational health care executive aiming to cultivate an accessible and collaborative work environment. While her open-door policy was well-intentioned, it eroded the precious blocks of time necessary to propel deeper initiatives forward.

Her strategic shift to morning work periods granted her the freedom to immerse in undisturbed thought and productivity, laying the groundwork for significant professional contributions, and leaving her available for collegial interactions later in the day.

But a morning routine should not be solely career-oriented. As we'll uncover in the next segment, the dawn can also be a sanctuary for self-care and fostering meaningful relationships.

Reclaim your mornings to strengthen connections and prioritize self-care

Profession and ambition may dominate much of our time, but it’s the strength of our relationships and the nurturing of our well-being that truly enrich our days. Unfortunately, they are also frequently the first casualties of a hectic schedule. The mornings, however, can be a sanctuary for these vital aspects of life.

Reflect on those cherished, quiet moments just after sunrise — a space untainted by fatigue or the chaos of a day well spent. Such tranquility is ideal for weaving deeper ties with loved ones, turning early hours into a shared joy, rather than a solitary rush.

Visualize transforming the start of your day into a meaningful ritual with your significant other, or reconceptualizing breakfast as a new anchor for family unity, mirroring the conviviality of a dinner gathering but with the freshness and promise of a new day.

Kathryn Beaumont Murphy, a dedicated tax attorney, witnessed firsthand the transformative power of morning family time. Challenged by late nights at work, she found precious moments with her daughter evaporating. Shifting her mindset to prioritize mornings allowed her entire family to establish a cherished and enlivening breakfast tradition.

And what of personal fulfillment — the art, poetry, training, or meditation that speaks to the core of who you are? Like the top executives in James Citrin’s interviews, the solution lies in greeting the day early. By carving out time for these passions when the world is still at rest, you assert their importance in your life and nurture your personal growth.

By redefining the dawn, you’ll not only foster connections and commit to self-care, but also walk through your days with a newfound confidence, knowing that what truly matters has already been honored.

Embark on a journey towards an invigorating morning with time logging and visionary planning

Revamping your morning into a time of fulfillment and productivity isn't just a wishful thought — it starts with concrete steps. Here are the initial two that lay the foundation for your new dawn.

Firstly, turn your awareness to the full scope of your week by maintaining a time log. Every one of us has the same 168 hours each week. Understanding exactly where those hours drift is pivotal to reclaiming your mornings. It's not just the dawn hours that matter, but the choices you make throughout the day — especially at night.

Late evenings — whether they consist of answering last-minute emails or indulging in a TV binge — can sabotage the potential of your mornings. It's unsustainable in the long haul. By journaling your time, you may discover how to shuffle less critical tasks, like swapping out packing lunches for providing lunch money, which can grant you extra morning time.

Once your time log offers a clear portrait of your current habits, proceed to step two: envision your idyllic morning.

Crafting this vision functions like a blueprint. It helps you shape a morning that doesn't just happen to you, but one you actively design. For Laura Vanderkam, the author herself, this dream morning kicks off at 6:20 a.m., sometimes beginning with some intimate moments, or otherwise, with a run to invigorate her senses. She cherishes a family breakfast for those precious interactions, followed by focused time to develop her creative endeavors.

But this is just one rendering of a morning well spent. The canvas is yours. What unfolds in your quintessential start to the day? Now that you've charted where your time goes, it's time to sketch the morning that you ardently aspire to — one that will energize and inspire you to greet each day with gusto.

Map out the feasibility of your dream morning and build new habits one step at a time

Equipped with a vision of your ideal morning and an intricate log of your time, you're ready to steer into the third leg of your journey — addressing logistics. Start by scrutinizing the practicability of your envisioned morning, assessing just how much time each desired activity would consume. Can you streamline any part of your day to make room for this new venture?

Perhaps you'll discover an opportunity to shave off time from a lengthy shower to dedicate those precious minutes to a nutritious breakfast. The key here is detailed planning; an accurate map will guide you to your destination.

Next, draw on the sheer excitement of establishing fresh habits. Remember, habits require nurturing and patience to take root. If your morning canvas includes various activities — such as running, meditating, and writing — begin with just one. Too much, too fast, and you risk burnout. Allow yourself the grace period to adapt to these changes, especially when you approach the two-week mark, where new routines are put to the test.

Maintain your motivation with a little self-bribery — a celebration of your persistence. Reward your milestones with something exhilarating: a night at the opera, a gourmet dinner, or a relaxing spa day can be immensely invigorating.

Lastly, comes the fine-tuning, step five. Adaptability is crucial because life loves to throw curveballs. Your routines must have the elasticity to weather life's unpredictabilities.

Take a cue from the author herself, who, during her first pregnancy, found that morning runs no longer suited her. She tweaked her routine to focus on self-care. Now, as her children grow and independence is restored to her mornings, she's reintegrated her cherished runs before family breakfasts.

Each phase of life may call for a different morning symphony. Attune your mornings to the present's needs, and you will ensure a harmonious start to your day, no matter what life introduces.

Transform your weekends from mundane to memorable with foresight and anticipation

Weekends beam with the promise of rest and rejuvenation — a time to unwind from the weekday hustle. Yet, without a mindful approach, these precious days can slip into a mundane blur, leaving you unrefreshed and unprepared for the week ahead.

To elevate your weekends, engage in proactive planning. Instead of letting Saturday morning catch you off guard, chart out three to five "anchor" experiences — activities that give your weekend both shape and substance.

Spontaneity has its charm, but "doing nothing" often unwittingly translates to a passive consumption of digital content — an endless cycle of television, internet browsing, and social media scrolling. A premeditated plan helps to circumvent this low-energy trap, affording you a weekend that revives, rather than depletes, you.

The nature of these anchor activities is yours to define: a family picnic beneath the open sky or an evening lost in the magic of a cinema are just examples. The central aspect is to infuse your weekend with exceptional moments that break the weekday routine.

Cultivate an appetite for anticipation. Deliberately chosen weekend ventures should carry a zest of singularity, a deviation from your regular schedule. By fostering this eager anticipation as the workweek wanes, you enhance the overall enjoyment of your time off, much like how the sweet suspense of unwrapping gifts heightens the joy of a holiday.

With the importance of planning etched in your mind, the subsequent insights will delve into actionable strategies, ensuring that your anticipation materializes into memorable weekend experiences.

Curate a weekend of delights with a dream list and the dance of planned spontaneity

Revitalizing your weekends begins with dreaming — not just any dream, but a roster of 100 dreams. This might seem audacious, but it's an exercise in expanding the horizon of your possibilities, and here's why.

Starting with the top ten might bring forth grandiose visions — adventurous trips and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Valuable as they are, they're not the typical fabric of an average weekend. Expanding the list nudges you towards the more attainable aspirations that are perfect for regular Saturday and Sunday adventures.

Think of this as your action-packed bucket list, where you might find simple yet fulfilling wishes like sharing a colossal strawberry milkshake with your children in the glow of a sun-drenched park. Get those dreams down in writing and encourage your loved ones to craft their lists. Together, you can weave weekends that resonate with everyone's desires.

Staying too regimented, though, can stiffen the spontaneity that sets a weekend apart. Your planning need not be minute-by-minute; broad strokes provide enough structure. "Sunday lunch with Anne and Peter" or "beach day with the kids" suffices as a plan that still allows room to breathe and adapt.

Let's not forget the power of rest — it's essential fuel for your week. Even amid family liveliness, assert your needs just as you would accommodate theirs. Communicate the significance of repose, like an uninterrupted hour-long nap, and make it part of the weekend's rhythm.

As you embrace these strategies, anticipate weekends that recharge your spirit, readying you for the demands ahead. Speaking of which, our next discussion zeroes in on the workplace, scrutinizing how refined time management can be your career's ally.

Refine your work prowess with a careful audit of your professional hours

When it comes to work, sleep, and household tasks, our perceptions are often askew. We tend to magnify the time spent on less enjoyable tasks and downplay the durations dedicated to pleasures. That means it's time to confront reality and meticulously track your time — an approach that can revolutionize your productivity at the office.

Enlighten yourself by embracing the 'mind your hours' method. This exercise will not only give you a precise measure of your workload but might debunk myths you hold about it. Many of us imagine we work more than we actually do — a perceived 80-hour week could, in fact, be a 50-hour endeavor. Our dislike for laborious tasks skews our view of time.

So, initiate a detailed time log. Over the span of a full week, document the minutes and hours you labor away — whether it's grinding through emails or doing household chores. Use spreadsheets, apps, or plain old pen and paper to make the task simpler.

Equipped with this quantitative insight, step into strategic planning. It's about transforming your newly found time awareness into a springboard for optimized workdays.

Let's draw inspiration from Michael Soenen of EmergencyLink. He dedicates Sunday afternoons to dissecting his company's urgent tasks, then communicates this game plan to his team. Come Monday, everyone hits the ground running, focused and ready to make the most of their hours, rather than being caught in aimless activity.

Incorporate a slice of planning into your own schedule. A little foresight can ensure that projects which typically fall by the wayside are addressed with intent and dedication. Start sketching out your blueprint for the week and watch as your productivity soars to new heights.

Forge your path to success with intentional planning and eliminating unproductive tasks

The adage goes that failing to plan is planning to fail, and there's a kernel of wisdom in these words, especially when it comes to success. Without strategic steps and daily intentionality, grand ambitions remain distant dreams. That's why cultivating a savvy blend of daily goal-setting and uncompromised accountability is crucial.

Let's consider the approach of establishing daily goals, which steers clear of the overwhelming nature of massive, overarching targets. Even high-achievers like fitness entrepreneur Chalene Johnson tackle their visions one piece at a time. As a consultant for Beachbody, Johnson had the monumental task of ramping up profitability. Her strategy? Divide the mountain into manageable hills — set up a crucial marketing meeting today, strategize with a project partner tomorrow. This incremental progress not only charted her pathway to the overall goal but also kept her inspiration burning brightly.

Integral to this process is an accountability system — that's where an 'accountability partner' comes into play. This partner tracks your progress, ensures you're checking off those daily goals, and becomes a pillar of support, nudging you toward your weekly milestones.

Having laid out the plan, your next move is to actively trim the fat from your 'work' diet — excise those tasks that mimic productivity but yield little fruit.

Emails often epitomize this quagmire. The modern professional may find themselves drowning in a sea of correspondence — not necessarily because each message is urgent but due to the volume and the expectation of digital connectivity. The key is discernment; identify which emails genuinely demand your attention and which can wait. Devote the time saved to core tasks like honing a presentation or strategizing for an upcoming meeting.

When you renounce these distractions, you'll often find the truly impactful work requires far less time than you feared. Channel your efforts, and success becomes not just a possibility, but an inevitable milestone on your journey.

Mastering your work life through dedicated practice, harnessing career capital, and recognizing joy

As our journey concludes, let's revisit timeless wisdom and apply it to the professional world, refining practices that seem intuitive but are often overlooked in their application.

First, embrace the mantra: practice makes perfect. Mastery is not achieved by coasting on autopilot; just as mindlessly driving from point A to B doesn't improve your skills behind the wheel. It is the art of deliberate practice that propels us forward. For the aspiring author, the choice between endlessly churning out pages and seeking critical feedback can be pivotal. Though critique might sting, it is a compass that guides toward enhanced craftsmanship.

Moving on to career capital — your stash of professional equity. Picture it as your hard-earned treasury — the sum of your skills, experiences, knowledge, and professional relationships. It's a pot of gold you can leverage to secure promotions or embark on new ventures. A key to growing this wealth is relationship-building, fostering a network of trust that will vouch for you and open doors.

Lastly, remember, success and happiness are deeply intertwined. Staying attuned to the hallmarks of success not only charts your progress but also amplifies your contentment. Harvard researchers Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, through their study 'The Progress Principle,' unveiled that the feeling of making headway, of breakthroughs and advancements, corresponds directly to an employee's sense of happiness. Recognize every positive nod, every leap forward, and let that acknowledgment nourish your joy in your professional endeavours.

Implementing these principles — dedicated practice, accrual and expenditure of career capital, and savoring the sweetness of success — can chart a path to not just professional triumph but also personal fulfillment and happiness.

Embrace the day: A guide to mastering your time and achieving fulfillment

In conclusion, mastering time management is about far more than surviving the morning rush. It's a ticket to elevated productivity, a reduction in stress, and the enrichment of both your work and personal lives. The cornerstone of this transformation is a keen awareness of time — understanding precisely how you spend it paves the way for more intentional, effective use of every hour. By keeping a meticulous time log and planning wisely, you can inject purpose into your mornings, invigorate your career, and make weekends your oasis of joy and rejuvenation. Adopting these strategies means you're not just passing time; you're actively sculpting a life that thrives on accomplishment, balance, and happiness.

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