Business journalist and author Laura Vanderkam scored a hit with “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast,” an excerpt from her new book by the same name that ran on Fast Company.com last week.
In it, Vanderkam shared what she’d learned studied people’s morning habits and how getting organized or inspired early in the morning helps set the tone for the rest of the day.
After the story broke, Vanderkam’s website got so many hits, it jammed the server that hosts the site, she shared after the fact on Facebook. The Internet service provider Vanderkam uses ended up moving her website to a dedicated server to accommodate all the traffic.
If being productive early in the day is a key to success, and if people are so curious about the subject, it got me to thinking what successful writers do before breakfast. Vanderkam, who’s written several books on time management, says about her own morning routine in her FastCompany.com story: “For me, it would start with a run, followed by a hearty family breakfast. After getting people out the door, I’d focus on long-term projects like my books.”
I wanted to know what other writers who’ve achieved some level of success do before breakfast. So I asked.
Writers’ Pre-Breakfast Rituals
Here’s what they had to say:
Susan Kelleher, Pulitzer Prize winner investigative journalist at the Seattle Times — “ A few days a week, I go for a run to put myself out in the world, and get my mind off whatever worries I might have woken up with. Recently, I started keeping a list of everything I have to get done that day. I do that routinely for stories I’m working on, but never applied it to my life. Having a kid has made everything more frantic in the mornings, and I find that the list helps me keep my mind focused on the present without worrying about the things I have to do, or worry about forgetting what they are.”
Monica Bhide, food, culture and lifestyle writer and author of three cookbooks, including Modern Spice (Simon & Schuster, 2009) – “Initially, I thought this was a cheesy idea but it seems to be working. I wake up way before the kids now and focus the first half hour of my day on writing my gratitude journal. No emails, no news, no work. Just gratitude and it really sets up my whole day with a very different vibe. Once that is done, then I tackle what I need to. In fact, I find myself making mental notes in the day on who/what will go in the journal the next morning!”
Craig Silverman, award-winning journalist, hyperlocal news founder and creator of the Regret the Error blog reporting on media errors – “My pre-breakfast routine starts with someone else’s breakfast: my son’s. After I’ve fed him, finished packing his lunch, and helped him and my wife get out the door, my first 90 minutes of work are divided into two not necessarily equal parts. Part one consists of a quick scan of email, Twitter and essential feeds to see if I’ve missed anything on my beat, or if I can spot something emerging that I want/need to write about. Part two is is writing. I either jump on something new, or I do the final read and polish on a piece I have ready for that day. The idea is to start the day with a win: something new that can be published. It means that before 9 am I’ve already meet a deadline and pushed something out the door.
Liz Pulliam Weston, personal finance journalist and author of the nationally syndicated “Money Talk” newspaper column – “ I probably should do a lot of things that I don’t, but one of the things I do fairly consistently is to take a few minutes before I get out of bed to think about the day ahead: what needs to get done, what I’d like to accomplish and what I can do for other people. Because thinking about someone else usually gets me out of my own head and reminds me my ‘problems’ are usually problems of abundance.”
E.b. Boyd, Silicon Valley reporter for FastCompany.com — “I’m not much of a morning person, so instead, the night before, I open a new sheet in my ongoing “to do” notebook and write down everything I have to do the following day. I also take a look at the week as a whole on my Outlook calendar and remind myself how much I have going on. As a writer for Fast Company, I get slammed with pitches, so if I don’t keep an eye on how much I have on my plate, I easily can say yes to far more than I actually have time for.”
Jen Singer, writer, author, spokeswoman and creator of parenting blog MommaSaid — “It will involve checking social media on the toilet…. Instead of coffee, I start percolating my brain. I try to hang on to the free form creativity I wake up with and let ideas bubble up uncensored while I’m showering, eating and getting the the kids out the door. It’s often the most creative time of the day — well, except when I’m placing a Bingo down in Words with Friends.”
As for me, twice a week I hit the gym for an early morning cardio-weights-stretching class. I discovered long ago if I was going to fit a workout into my day, it had to be first thing. Other mornings, I get up early to pick up the house, fold laundry, and check email, Twitter and Facebook to catch up on what’s happened since the day before. Depending on the day, I’ll also write something for this blog. Then I take a mom break to get my youngest up and off to school, shower, dress, read the news and start the rest of the day.
What about you: what do you do before breakfast, and how does it set the tone for the rest of your work day?