What Did You Do Before Breakfast?

What did you accomplish this morning before breakfast? Anything?

During the week, I read an article about what successful people do before breakfast. It is meant to be a self-improvement article, but you can also view it as an indictment about how little you accomplish in the morning.

It turns out that there are plenty of people telling us about CEOs and other high achievers’ sleep and morning work habits as a view on finding the secret of success.  I have written about other habits and even about where writers write in that same vein of searching for secrets.  Is looking at the window from your desk inspirational or just a distraction.

What do I conclude from reading these articles?  Unfortunately for me, you have to get up really early. Those successful folks are up by 5-6 am. These are not people who hit the snooze button. They seem to leap out of bed.

I am also not pleased to read that these winners blur the line between business and personal life. Business is on all day and night. Their personal lives are organized in the same way as their business calendar. Business meeting are logged in along with gym time and time with their spouses and kids.

They are not playing Words With Friends while sipping a second cup of coffee.

I also discovered in my web searching someone who has made a living by studying these kinds of habits. Laura Vanderkam is a writer who “questions the status quo and helps her readers rediscover their true passions and beliefs.”

On her blog, I found her writing about one of my personal demons – the to do list. I can’t stop making them, but when I see how many items are still undone, it drives me crazy.  Laura says:

My big realization over the past few years is that a weekly priority list gives me a nice mix between the immediate and the long-term. Before the start of the week (either on Friday afternoon or Sunday evening) I make a list of weekly priorities. This priority list encompasses both the professional and the personal. This includes things that “have” to happen (a doctor appointment, articles I’ve already committed to turn in) and things that I’d like to have happen: new article ideas, long-term planning, running a certain number of times.

Then, each day I make a daily to-do list off this weekly priority list. I tend to front load the week, because things will come up that I want to make time for later in the week. Coming up with the right balance of an aggressive, but not overly ambitious weekly priority list takes time. But as with anything, we get better with practice.

Laura has written a number of books in this category: All The Money In The World: What The Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending ; 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think and Grindhopping: Build a Rewarding Career Without Paying Your Dues.

She stays busy. Read her bio: USA Today’s Board of Contributors, CBS MoneyWatch, articles in The Wall Street Journal, City Journal, Scientific American, Reader’s Digest, Prevention, Fortune etc., appearing on The Today Show and Fox & Friends, hundreds of radio segments, Princeton grad,runner, wife, mom to two young sons and a baby daughter.

So, I guess when she wrote 168 Hours she was thinking hard about squeezing the most out of those 168 hours in a week.

I get a lot done. Friends ask me how I have time to write online on all my blogs, work and still write my poetry and enjoy my hobbies. That makes me feel good. But why do I still feel like I’m not accomplishing enough?

My wife heads for bed to read for a bit before sleeping about 10 pm consistently, but I continue to stay up (often into the morning hours) and work.  I am a night owl and feel more productive at night, but I know I need that quality sleep time too.

Vanderkam is a proponent of self-examination and prioritizing, and believes you can get you eight hours of sleep and still have time for the gym, hobbies and write that novel without giving up work, family, and other things that matter to you.

She questions that idea that hitting the lottery and having, as another of her books says, All the Money in the World, is not the answer.  Even with a pile of money, there is never enough. Even the person with an average income spends a lot (too much?) time trying to stretch their money and fretting about spending too much and  saving too little.

The premise of her book Grindhopping sounds too good to be true: Building a Rewarding Career Without Paying Your Dues.  I’m pretty far from a life in the corporate grind. But if you’re there – long hours, low pay, few rewards, trying to climb out an entry-level jobs – then the idea of hopping over all that to starting your own company, freelancing, consulting, job-hopping, and networking to success has got to sound very appealing.

Though I don’t need to hop over any one for a job, it would be good to get more out of my 168 hours – though it’s more like 112 if I can get in some decent sleep. My fear in reading the book is that it will make me want to add more things to my to do list.

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A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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