Book Review: What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast

Ever since I read an article in “Fast Company” by Laura Vanderkam a couple of years ago, I’ve periodically followed her writing online and have been inspired by her message to working women that there actually is time in the day for all that you want to accomplish. As a working mom with lots of creative ideas, I am fine with hearing this message over and over and over again.

So after seeing that Laura has recently launched a podcast alongside her other duties as a full time freelance writer, public speaker, wife, and mom of four, I thought, hey, maybe I could pick up some good tips from her books? I reserved a couple titles from the library and hoped for the best.

The first one I finished is What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, a collection of three e-Books that were originally released separately: one on the early morning habits of successful people, as well as one about weekend habits and one on successful work habits. In total it’s a quick read with many sections that are prime for skimming.

I find Laura’s style easy and conversational and she injects a lot of sardonic wit throughout that keeps the age old topic of time management fresh and fun. Perhaps you’re finding yourself low on free time to continue perusing this blog post? Well, then. Let me get straight to the point. Here are my main takeaways and ideas from the book that I’d like to implement immediately!

Better habits before breakfast

  • During the morning, focus on one of three areas: nurturing yourself, nurturing my relationships, nurturing my career. I know from experience that when I make time to start the day having nurtured my own mind and body that I am much more resilient for whatever will come during the rest of the day. Over the past few months I haven’t practiced a personal morning routine and I’ve noticed the difference. I recently committed to waking up before the rest of my family and meditating (perhaps reading or blogging if a sleeping babe permits!) So far so great!

Better habits for the weekend

  • Schedule the weekend. Have a plan for how you will relax. Otherwise, doing “nothing” might mean hours of “watching television we didn’t mean to watch, surfing websites we didn’t plan to surfand so on. I want to get better at this! Though I’m fairly satisfied with how we spend our weekend time I know that with some more structure I could crank out a few more hours on my personal creative projects and feel a lot more rejuvenated for the work week. I also am on a mission to get a head start on our meal plan during the weekend. Whether that’s a batch of soup or getting the week’s groceries organized.
  • Create family traditions. I love this one. With a small child who will soon be at the age where he will remember his life, I want to find some weekly traditions to anchor our days. And also make the week a bit more efficient. For example, we’ve started implementing a Taco Tuesday where for dinner on Tuesdays we eat, wait for it… tacos. That’s one less meal to plan and a fun evening to look forward to at the beginning of the week.
  • Compress the chores. A big hunk of the Weekend section was devoted to finding ways to cut down on time spent on chores around the house. (Lower your cleanliness standards! Hire it out! Shop online!). My takeaway is to find a cleaning routine that works for us and stick to it. I don’t mind cleaning and I know I’ll just feel better if I can remember exactly when was the last time I cleaned the toilet. Guesstimating and cleanliness aren’t great bedfellows me thinks.

Better habits at work

  • The most successful people make time to practice. I think I’m pretty good at my job but I want to be even better. In fact, I want to be working beyond my job so that I can make my way into a new position if I want to. I need to be practicing the skills of my job (not to mention, clearly defining what they are!) as well as considering what other skills I’d like to learn this year to ready myself for advancement.
  • Making progress makes people happy and fulfilled at work. Teresa Amabile of the Harvard Business School, and Steven Kramer, a developmental psychologist analyzed nearly twelve thousand diary entries kept by teams at seven organizations and found that “entries from the top scoring days featured small wins, breakthroughs, forward movement on projects, and goal completion.” I think I’m doing pretty well on this for myself–I keep a running list of tasks to be completed and take great joy in highlighting those that I complete. But I’m interested in how a manager might create a “small wins” culture in which forward movement on individual projects was more organizationally structured and made transparent. I’d like to think on it!
  • Go outside during the workday. A UCLA time study found that adults in middle-class, dual-income families spend tales than 15 minutes per week in their backyards. I work on a beautiful property of more than 100 acres. There is no excuse not to go outside for at least 20 minutes every day! Except in negative degree temperatures like we are experiencing this week. I’m giving myself a pass on those days. 

Overall, a quick easy read (and for some reason I found having this book in my purse super comforting. I wonder what that says about me?) If you’re curious about habits, productivity, and creating family or workplace culture, you could easily find a few minutes a day to peruse it and find a few gems of your own.

Read my review of Vanderkam’s book, Off the Clock here.