Monday, August 27, 2012

Before Breakfast

A while back, Cloud at Wandering Scientist wrote about how she had changed up her morning routine after she read a short book called What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings--and Life by Laura Vanderkam. Her post motivated me to buy the book, and I finally got around to reading it this past weekend. 

The book - which took about 30 minutes to read - gives some great advice on how to make the most of the time before breakfast, and why we should take advantage of that time. A couple quotes to summarize:

"...tasks that require self-discipline are simply easier to do while the day is young."

"...willpower, like a muscle, becomes fatigued from overuse."

"There seems to be a general pattern that major self-control failures and other bad decisions occur late in the day."

The more I read, the more I could really understand where Vanderkam was coming from. I have all sorts of motivation in the morning to want to try new things, to bring exercise into my daily routine, to take up drawing, or the piano, or running. But, everything falls to shit once I get home from work and get through the dinner/bath/bedtime routine. Who hasn't started off the day feeling like you can take on the world, only to end up on the couch at 7:30pm, exhausted, with a big bag of chips and some M&Ms nearby? It just makes plain sense that, if you want to incorporate something new into your life, to do it when you're feeling the most positive and motivated.

Vanderkam overviews five steps to take to start spending your time better:

1. Track your time - how do you spend your time? Are you using it efficiently? Are there things you can do to free up time? Are there mundane tasks that can wait until later in the day so you can do the more important things earlier?

2. Picture the perfect morning - what would you do with your morning time if money, logistics, or anything else wasn't an issue? 

3. Think through the logistics - once you know what you want to do, how can you make that happen?

4. Build the habit - start slow, so you don't burn yourself out. Begin by introducing one activity for about a month before doing another. Wake up 15 minutes earlier for one week, then continue to wake up earlier, so as to not shock your system. It's okay "to use bribery at first." (I like that one!) :)

5. Tune up as necessary - Life will change, and so might your new routine, and that's okay!

This book as inspired me to try this out. My big goal right now is to introduce exercise back into my life, and I've had a hell of a time doing it. I have all the good intentions in the world, but fitting it in during the workday doesn't fly when I have impromptu meetings, TAs that need help, or teachers wanting to talk about our programs. After dinner doesn't work because, let's be honest, I'm exhausted and just want to crash with a book or in front of the TV. 

So, my plan is to utilize the mornings that DH wakes up with Evan (we alternate mornings). On those mornings, I plan to get up at about 6:20am - which is actually quite reasonable - and go for a walk or bike-ride. The other mornings, I will spend with Evan as I normally do.

Not sure what I'll do when it starts to get dark and/or cold, but I'll cross that bridge when I get there. I'll update in about a month with how I'm doing at the end of each week with how I'm doing!

As for the book - I highly recommend it for anyone who is looking to make the most of their time. I give the book a 4/5, because I wish it was longer :D

Edited to add:
A friend of mine started waking up earlier in the mornings to work out. Now, she uses that time to do all sorts of things - like prep for that night's dinner, do laundry, and clean up the house. Here's what she has to say about it:

"I'm totally a morning convert now. I always used to sleep til the last possible second, but no more!! I'm too addicted to how much easier nights are with less to do."