Book One (and it’s really a mini-book) is What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast (Breakfast for short). This came into my life at just the right time. I had recently begun getting up at 5 a.m. instead of 6 a.m. This originally started because I was being woken up by my infant son, but when he started sleeping later, I continued getting up at the same time. By getting up at 5 a.m., I have at least an hour (usually more) to myself before either of my children get up, and this made my final mornings over the summer so much calmer. So when I began reading Breakfast and the first thing she suggested was waking up early, I knew I was on the right track. After reading the guide, I am using her ideas to revolutionize my mornings now that I'm back at school in the following ways (and you can too):
Yes, it is difficult, but it makes such a difference. As mentioned, I’m dragging myself out of bed these days at 5 a.m. Vanderkam writes that out of all the successful people she’s interviewed, none of them wake up any later than 6 a.m. Again as mentioned, getting up this early gives me at least an hour of uninterrupted time to myself. This is the best opportunity you will have all day to get serious work done, and you should take advantage of it. If you need to go to bed earlier, do that. We purchased a wake-up light alarm clock to help us get moving in the morning, and it has been worth every cent. It is definitely painful at first, and continues to be at times. However, as it becomes more of a habit it gets a little easier. Plus, knowing how much I enjoy getting things done during this time gives me the positive reinforcement I need to get myself out of bed.
Exercise is important, regardless of who you are and what you do. Use this morning time to get your exercise routine done and out of the way. Vanderkam provides evidence that working out in the morning is much more beneficial than in the afternoon (from the increase in metabolism that helps your body throughout the day, to the fact that you’re less likely to make excuses in the morning than in the afternoon when tons of things can pile up on your to-do list). My mornings tend to be confined to the house, because the kids are sleeping and my husband leaves for work super early (so he can work out at the gym in his office). Once or twice a week, on days he doesn’t work out, I can convince him to leave later and I can go for a run. The other days I can do my Insanity DVDs or weights or the elliptical we have in the basement. If you can get out of the house, go for a run or hit the gym. If you can't, get some workout DVDs or some basic in home gym equipment. It is well worth the money. As Vanderkam notes (and the reason I love working out in the morning), is you get it over with, shower once, and don’t have to spend the whole rest of the day dreading it.
If you are lucky enough to have even more time to yourself in the mornings after you've worked out and showered, use this to your advantage. I break it down into "Personal Time" and "Professional Time".
For me, if my youngest son is up, I use the extra time I have to play with him. I always feel like I never have enough time with my kids during the school year, so I enjoy having some time with him to just roll around on the floor and giggle. I pushed back when I leave for work to the latest I can before hitting traffic (I HATE sitting in traffic), and it allows me this little oasis of time with him before I start my hectic day. If you’re a working mom and your kids are up early, can you push back going to work and spend a little time with your kids? Just getting those extra few quality minutes may make you feel so much better before you start your work day.
Or if you don’t have kids or if the kids aren’t up yet, this is the time to work on personal projects you've always wanted to complete that you have been putting off. Want to write that great American novel? Morning might just be the time to do it. If my son is not up, this is the perfect time for me to blog. This is time you could read a book, write in a journal, etc. Use this time to your advantage and fill it with a quality activity.
As a teacher, the best time to get work done is early in the morning. If you can be one of the first teachers / administrators in the building, do it. The building is quiet, so you can focus on grading papers, entering grades, lesson planning, etc without interruptions. The copy machine is free, so you can make all the copies you need for the day / week without waiting for anyone else. And best of all, your coworkers aren’t there yet to pop into your classroom to socialize with you, or complain to you about parents / students / administration / etc. In the early morning you can get more done in a shorter time frame than you could in the afternoon. The ability to get focused work done leads to a much calmer day. Additionally, then you can leave work earlier in the afternoon with little or even no work on your plate for the evening. This will allow you to enjoy your evenings so much more. For me, I like this morning time to read through education-related news and articles. I’m always trying to keep up on the latest in education trends and research, and this quiet time allows me to really read and digest the news, instead of just scan headlines in between bites of my sandwich at lunch and emails that must be responded to.
With these steps, I feel like I'm getting so much more done and enjoying my afternoons and evenings more. What do you do in the morning that makes you feel great and sets the tone for the rest of the day?