What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast
A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings - and Life
by Laura Vanderkam
In Laura Vanderkam's book, What the Most Successful People do Before Breakfast, the reader is given insight into time management, self-value, and productivity through the eyes of some of our nation's most influential leaders. Noting current lifestyle trends in today's society, Vanderkam puts together a great compilation of statistics, strategies, and suggestions for how to make the most of the hours in a day. As a member of Human Resources for a medium sized company, I found the tools extremely useful; the book offers guidelines for how to understand and help employees make the most of their time in order to improve job satisfaction and improve company efficiency, as well as gives personal suggestions for appreciating the 168 hours we are given each week.
The book begins with a descriptive setting of how many of us view our mornings - a chaotic scene filled with a scramble to gather thoughts and belongings, while juggling the to-dos of the day. An early riser myself, I constantly am baffled as to where my morning hours go; up by 6 and in the office at 8, I arrive feeling frazzled and pressured to organize my day quickly. Interestingly, Vanderkam noted that this feeling is common. In a 2011 study by the National Sleep Foundation, researchers found that most American's wake up at 5:59 am, two to three hours before they arrive at the workplace. Addressing the question of, "Where does the time go?", she explains that the problem with managing mornings usually is the result of wasting time on mindless tasks, rather than focusing on our core competencies: nurturing your career, nurturing your family beyond basic personal care, and nurturing yourself. Personally, I agree with her stance, and believe these three categories are extremely important. Recently reading a statistic that productivity of workplace interruptions, including employee abuse and misuse of social media, cost companies $650 billion a year, I believe finding a way to advise employees on balancing work and life tasks is extremely important. By finding appropriate time to nurture these three areas, I agree that we can improve time management and also improve our overall outlook on life, in and out of the office.
To show an example of these three values, Vanderkam describes the morning routine of several CEOs, whose early agendas are carefully planned and utilized to build the foundation of a productive day. For instance, James Citrin, CEO and for Spencer Stuart, exercises by 6 am to " run and reflect on his most important priorities of the day", as well as sort out his ideas and focus on himself. The example is used to describe how, in a world where one's day can quickly get away from you as other people's priorities invade, mornings may be the one time a person has complete control of their own schedule. Vanderkam shows the reader that by learning to take control of your day from the beginning, the important goals, decisions, and practices can take place at the beginning and throughout the day, rather than being put off at the end. As I commonly see in the workplace, this is the exact reason we try to promote the idea of starting each day with a one-on-one meeting, creating our new hire orientations in a way that they host the bulk of activities early on, and making company wide morning announcements; there is simply more focus and enthusiasm at the beginning of each day.
Continuing with the mindset that mornings reap more attentiveness from employees, Vanderkam's book discusses willpower regarding time, which she describes as the dedication to a plan for time management and resistance to fall into old habits of wasting such time. Citing a study by Roy F. Baumeister of Florida State University, research has shown that tasks requiring self-discipline are easier to do while the day is young. Likewise, "willpower, like a muscle, becomes fatigued with overuse." This means that over the course of each person's day, difficult decisions, stressful work situations, and dealing with others all use up the willpower necessary to focus and produce results in the workplace and at home. However, she notes that each person awakes each morning with a fresh supply of willpower. The reader is shown another study, in which Twitter showed that people are more likely to use the words "awesome" and "super" between 6:00 am to 9"00 pm than at any other time of the day. To be successful in the workplace, Vanderkam continues, workers and managers alike must embrace mornings as a time to tackle projects that require internal motivation, a power that will only fade as the day wears on.
To make these easier, she suggests focusing on turning choices into habits. Just as brushing your teeth because a habit rather than a task, Vanderkam explains, morning rituals such as setting aside time for email, exercising, or reflecting on the