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10 Things Successful People Do Before Breakfast

10 Things Successful People Do Before Breakfast

Have you ever thought that your day could go better if you only knew how to start it? Beginning the day on the right foot usually means the difference between a day full of wasted opportunities and a day brimming with possibilities. Laura Vanderkam, an expert in time management and the author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, stresses that prioritizing your most important tasks for the beginning of the day is critical in finding professional success.

So, how do you do start the day off right? One crucial step is to take advantage of the science behind these successful habits. Vanderkam cites the findings of a Florida State University psychology professor, Roy Baumeister, who discovered that willpower, like muscles, becomes fatigued from overuse. Baumeister points out that diets fall apart in the evenings, and that other problems with poor self-control such as lapses in decision-making also come later in the day. On the other hand, early mornings are usually when you have the willpower, optimism, and energy required to tackle the most challenging tasks.

If you truly want to follow in the footsteps of the most successful people, you need to realize that time is a precious commodity. Take advantage of every moment of your day. You should examine what you normally do before breakfast, and see how well it aligns with these 10 things the most successful people do before breakfast.

1. They wake up early

Time has the strange tendency of running away from you, and successful people often watch their days become consumed by phone calls, meetings, and emergencies from the moment they walk into the office. Early mornings, on the other hand, are much easier to control. This is why some of the most successful people in the world wake up before the sun rises, squeezing as much time out of their day as they can.

Vanderkam polled 20 executives, and found that 90 percent of them wake up before 6 a.m. on weekdays. For example, Disney CEO Bob Iger gets up before 4:30 a.m. every day to read, and PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi is up even earlier, at 4 a.m.

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2. They express gratitude

When you wake up and open your eyes, do you think about how grateful you are, or do you moan about having to get started with another day? Some of the most successful people begin their day by reflecting on how good they have it, not on how stressful and terrible the day ahead will be. Positive reflection helps you correctly set your attitude before your feet even hit the floor, paving the way for an optimistic and enthusiastic day at work. According to a pharmaceutical executive Vanderkam interviewed, this intentional show of gratitude gives her a clear vision of not only her own day, but of her staff’s as well.

Sebastian Juarez, CEO and cofounder of eTips, agrees with this. He says that when he wakes up, he tries “to think on simple things that I am truly grateful for, like having such a great family, living in a beautiful place, anything I can be thankful for. That helps me a lot on having a positive attitude during the day.”

3. They find a purpose for the day

If you want to lead a fulfilling day, it has to have purpose. This should be something that goes beyond your normal to-do list as an executive, and be that “thing” that gets you really jazzed up and excited for the day. At the end of the day when you’re reflecting on what you’ve done, it should be something that makes you feel that you’ve accomplished a lot in just a little time.

Gary Rawding, chairman and CEO of myServiceForce, tries to do this every day. “It is the thing that gets me excited,” he says, “and at the end of the day makes me feel satisfied. I like to have that ‘thing’ even before I get out of bed. That makes the day a blast.”

4. They make their beds

Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, says that making your bed every morning is correlated with increased productivity. This is a “keystone habit,” he writes, that will set off a chain reaction of other good habits. In other words, making your bed doesn’t magically make you get more work done, but it does set the day up for increased productivity and motivation. It only takes a moment or two, but it can yield hours of increased productivity throughout the day.

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As even more evidence of the power of bed-making, Psychology Today’s Judy Dutton says that people who make their beds are “more likely to like their jobs, own a home, exercise regularly, and feel well rested, whereas non-bed-makers hate their jobs, rent apartments, avoid the gym, and wake up tired.”

5. They list what they want to accomplish for the day

You can’t properly face the day unless you’re armed with the knowledge of what’s in store and what you need to get done. By outlining what needs accomplished, you can set yourself up for a day of success and productivity, instead of playing catch-up with all of the things you’ve forgotten about. Planning your day early in the morning helps stay you on track once your hectic work hours have set in.

You can create your checklist on a simple piece of paper, or you can use Evernote or some other GTD app. The most important thing here is consistency in making sure you do it every day. As you complete tasks, check them off so you know what you’ve accomplished and what’s left to do.

Kacie Gonzalez, Vice President of Business Development for Shoto, says this list should include not just work-related things, “but also personal tasks like trying that new class at the gym or cooking dinner.” She points out that before beginning a new list for the day, you should look over the previous day’s list to see what didn’t get finished. That way, you won’t forget about it, because it will still be on your radar.

6. They read a newspaper

Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE, starts every day with a cardio workout, and then reads the newspaper and watches CNBC. Virgin America CEO David Cush listens to sports radio and reads the newspaper while he’s on the stationary bicycle at the gym.

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It doesn’t matter if you read the newspaper or check Twitter from your phone, or get the news from a diner booth or your living room sofa, if you have a pre-breakfast routine that includes scanning the latest headlines, you’re standing in good company with most successful people.

7. They do a first check of their email

Some time management gurus say you should procrastinate on your email as long as possible, but a recent survey found that the first thing most executives do in the morning is an email check. It might just be a quick browse of your inbox for messages that need your immediate attention, or maybe it’s a good opportunity to compose a few important emails. Either way, tackling it early means you can better focus on your inbox and what needs your attention while your mind is fresh.

Think seriously about this. Can you properly organize your day if you don’t know what needs to be done? By zeroing out your inbox early, you can better plan what stills needs to be accomplished. The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin points out that getting her inbox cleared from the start makes it easier to focus on more challenging projects later on in the day.

8. They spend time connecting with their spouses

Mornings are usually the best time to connect with your spouse. By the time evening rolls around you’re already exhausted from the day’s activities, and you might even be more tired after taking care of dinner. Then, of course, you’ll want to unwind a bit before going to bed. That’s why many successful people make sure they spend time connecting with their partners as part of their morning ritual.

Vanderkam points out that while this early morning connection could certainly take a frisky turn, it doesn’t have to. One executive she spoke with commutes into New York City from the suburbs every morning, using the hour-long trip to talk about their lives, plans for the week, household to-do lists, finances, and other important topics.

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9. They clear their minds with meditation exercises

This one may sound a bit “New Agey”, but the theories behind it are definitely sound. Successful people typically have ‘Type A’ personalities, and demand as much from others as they do from themselves. This can make it difficult for them to break ties with their mental to-do lists, so they need some way to reduce the mental clutter. Many successful people, for this very reason, center themselves for the rush of the day with a morning meditation or prayer.

Manisha Thakor, a former corporate executive and current financial advisor, finds that meditation to clear her mind works wonders for her productivity. In fact, she has found the routine to be “one of the most life-enhancing practices” she’s ever adopted.

10. They meet up with people for coffee

If you want to make it home for dinner but still need to network with people, having coffee or breakfast before heading into the office is a great choice. A networking breakfast is less disruptive to your day than lunch, and Vandermkam points out they’re also more likely to stay work-oriented than cocktail parties.

Christopher Colvin, an entrepreneur and lawyer from New York, attends a networking breakfast every Wednesday. He thinks this is the ideal time for networking, because “I feel I’m fresher and more creative in the mornings. By the end of the day my mind is more cluttered.”

Featured photo credit: Flicker via flic.kr

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • They rile up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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For example:

If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tension

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

For the Sleep Depriver

(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
  • Shut down your thinking.
  • Calm your feelings.
  • Simply focus on the present moment. 

The Bottom Line

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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