what the most successful people do before breakfast; a review

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, by Laura Vanderkam. Photo by Kelly Furgal Toye, please click for Bookstagram account.

Book 41 of 2017

“When you make over your mornings, you make over your life.”

It is clear to anyone who knows me that I am not one to be giving advice on how to be efficient in the morning. I have said it for years: I am a ‘night person’. When I was pregnant, random people would tell me: “You’ll become a morning person once you have a baby. You won’t have a choice, and then it will become your new norm.” Yeah, well, that didn’t happen. My husband handles most weekday mornings with our little one, and I am the one who picks our son up from daycare after work. If I need to work late, which is a pretty regular occurrence, I’ll bring my computer home and work after my son is in bed. I love participating in the world in the evening: hanging with my hubby after our little guy is in bed, socializing with friends, eating a nice dinner, drinking wine, making a late night tea, reading, getting caught up on emails and TV shows, heading to a workout class, blogging, writing… There is something almost magical to me about the world when the sun goes down, and I can find endless things to do each night. And every morning I wake up bleary-eyed and wish I could sleep in past 8 AM.

Alas, I am an adult and life doesn’t really work like that for many of us. So, I am always looking for techniques to better myself, my habits and my routine. I stumbled upon Laura Vanderkam’s What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast accidentally, but I immediately bought it. I figured it couldn’t hurt!

I don’t know if I will ever make the switch to becoming a ‘morning person.’ Maybe when I turn 70 I will switch gears, and then I will look back and say “Why didn’t I wake up this early in my 20’s? Or 30’s?” But, I can take tips and examples I have learned from this book and try to apply a handful of them to my own life in hopes of making a change for the better.

Vanderkam makes great points like: we can justify anything (you know, just like me saying I’m a ‘forever nighthawk’), and don’t try to build multiple habits at once. I have paraphrased and direct-quoted some of my favourite tips and tricks that Vanderkam refers to, and I hope at least one of them will spark something in you, whether or not you are a morning person, or plan on trying to become one. Reading this book will help you rethink your own routines and how you can make your life easier, with or without various efficiency roadblocks that we all have in our lives. With the New Year coming, I think it is fair to say that we could all use some new routine inspiration!

Below are some of the methods and tactics that stuck with me while reading What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, so if you haven’t read it yet, or if you need a refresher, read on!


What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, by Laura Vanderkam

Notes & Quotes

  • Standing in line at Starbucks, dealing with petulant children… these things can make for a frustrating day and make us feel as though we need ‘me time’ by the time we get to work at 8 or 9.
  • An example: Reverend Al Sharpton works out every morning before 6 am. He doesn’t care what he looks like because he is often the only one in the gym. He is often in 2-3 cities per week and calls the hotels ahead of time to ensure they have a gym so he can stick with his morning workout routine.
  • Use the early morning quiet to think about your priorities for the day.
  • People say that their mornings are their ‘me time’.
  • Seize your mornings!
  • Pay yourself before you pay your bills.
  • If you have kids, take the time to eat breakfast with them, even if it means getting up earlier. Breakfast is a good bonding time, rather than sitting there and watching the clock, worrying about being late.
  • “If it has to happen, it has to happen first.”
  • Self Discipline is required; it’s not just the best thing to be productive in the morning for logistics, but also because it is good for our soul.
  • Will power can be overused, so don’t use all of it at once or you will never make mornings work in your favor.  You have one source of energy and that same energy is used when making decisions and doing critical thinking. But the muscles that are used as your source of energy for critical thinking and will power for creating new habits can be strengthened.  Once habits are formed, less will power is used and your energy will lend itself to other areas of your life.
  • Successful people work on high valued tasks in the AM and are more likely to be able to focus on internal motivations .
  • The best morning activities are for long-term benefit.
  • Here are the best focuses for an early morning challenge:
    1. Nurturing your career
    • You can focus without interruption
    •  Early mornings help Vanderkam manager her daily stress
  1. Nurturing your relationships
  2. Nurturing yourself
  • A study Vanderkam references is:  one-third  of those who work to put in the effort to create a morning routine before breakfast are more likely to stick with it.
  • Try using Vanderkam’s time logging spreadsheet to track a whole week 160 hours. (Available on her website). The reason being is that the solution to the ‘Morning Dilemma’ is dependent on what we are doing all other hours in the day (i.e. staying up too late; what are you doing during that time that couldn’t be done the next day or the next morning?).
  • Vanderkam suggests teaching your kids to be more self-reliant so that you can all be more efficient.
  • Ask yourself what a perfect morning would look like for you. What time would you have to get up at to make this schedule work?
  • Vanderkam circles back to this point, so I will too: Turning desire into a ritual takes a lot of initial will power and building a new habit takes energy.
  • Eat well and take breaks in your work day. Surround yourself with supportive people who want to see you succeed.
  • Choose one new habit you want to achieve and chart your progress. Keep track for at least thirty days.
  • Starting the day thinking about something that makes you happy! Become a ‘morning person’ by creating rituals that make you excited to get out of bed.
  • Believing that your actions matter is how the human brain learns optimism.
  • When you make over your mornings, you make over your life.


I enjoyed how straight-forward, short and snackable this book was. Vanderkam wasn’t sanctimonious; she offered great examples, but also managed to seem relatable through her useful techniques.

Drop me a line with any morning-habit-building tricks or expertise you can share! I’m open to hearing anything and everything!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s