“If it has to happen, then it has to happen first,” writes Laura Vanderkam, time management expert and author of “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast.”
Science supports this strategy. Vanderkam cites Florida State University psychology professor Roy Baumeister’s famous finding 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, we outline the following 7 things that the most successful people do before breakfast.
1. They wake up early
In a poll of 20 executives cited by Vanderkam, 90 per cent said they wake up before 6 a.m. on weekdays. PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, for example, wakes at 4 a.m. and is in the office no later than 7 a.m. Meanwhile, Disney CEO Bob Iger gets up at 4:30 to read, and Square CEO Jack Dorsey is up at 5:30 to jog.
2. They exercise before it falls
off the to-do list
According to Vanderkam, Xerox CEO Ursula Burns schedules an hour-long personal training session starting at 6 a.m. twice a week; Christies CEO Steve Murphy uses the mornings to do yoga; and Starwood Hotels CEO Frits van Paasschen runs for an hour every morning starting at 5:30.
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.
3. They work on a top-priority
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 all up.
4. They work on a personal
Many successful people put in an hour or so on their personal projects before they officially start their days.
History teacher Charlotte Walker-Said told Vanderkam she spends the hours between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. working on a book about the religious politics of West Africa. She can read journal articles and write several pages before dealing with her teaching responsibilities at the University of Chicago.
Carving out the time in the morning to write, and making it a habit, meant she would actually follow through. Vanderkam cites one study of young professors that showed writing a little bit every day rather than in intense bursts made them more likely to get tenure.
5. 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 former corporate executive who founded and now runs MoneyZen Wealth Management, 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.
6. They network over coffee
Especially if you like to make it home for dinner, the mornings can be a great time to meet with people for coffee or breakfast. Plus, networking breakfasts are less disruptive than midday lunches and more work-oriented than boozy cocktail parties, Vanderkam notes.
7. 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. 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.
By Jenna Goudreau, Entrepreneur.com