Regular readers will all know by now that I'm a big fan of Laura Vanderkam (168 Hours; All the Money in the World). This is my third blog post about her in less than a year, which is more than I can say for any of my favorite fiction writers. I can't help it; she's current, she writes about things that interest me, and I'm addicted to her blog.
This time around, she's published a very short e-book called What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. It cost me $2.99 at the Kindle store, and I read it in about half an hour.
After the success of All The Money..., Vanderkam has returned to her roots of time management and prioritization in this mini book. She writes about how crazy mornings can be for most people, especially people with children, and how much of an impact that late start to productivity has on the workday. She has located people who have even more crazy schedules than the average person, such as CEOs with multiple children and single mothers with demanding jobs, and analyzed what they do in the mornings to have a successful start to the day. She proves that prioritizing and letting go of specific activities in your mornings can help you get more accomplished, especially towards long-term or personal goals like running a marathon, learning a language or spending time in meditation or prayer. She gives evidence to the fact that mornings are the very best time to be productive, when we are well-rested and have a clear head; this is despite the fact that Vanderkam herself identifies strongly with the "night-owl" category, and ironically, wrote most of this book in the late evening hours. However, she does believe in the evidence she's collected, and practices what she preaches: she made changes to her own schedule so that despite having three very small children, a full-time writing career, and a husband who's often out of town, she still manages to go for a run, with or without a jogging stroller, every morning. That's her priority, and she's found a way to make it work.
As usual, Vanderkam's writing made me think about my own mornings and what I could be doing with them to be more productive. Luckily, I'm already a morning person; I generally don't have trouble getting out of bed and I feel good about accomplishing things right away. I sometimes struggle with what to do with that most productive time, though, because I find that I'm a better writer first thing in the morning, but I'm also a more consistent and energetic exerciser. Since exercise is a more ingrained habit for me, and since I find I'm much more apt to write in the evenings than I am to go to a late-afternoon Step class, exercise usually wins out in the mornings (though I can almost always take 5-10 minutes to write in my journal too). Now that school's out, and I have much longer mornings with few scheduled obligations, I can extend my time so I can get exercise AND writing done early on. I'm looking forward to two months of that luxury.
After that, I have no idea what's going to happen to my mornings. I assume, at least for the first several weeks, that my mornings and afternoons and evenings will just become a blur of sleeping and feeding, and attempting to take care of myself and the house. After the baby settles in a little more, though, I can't go back to the same routines; it's going to be much harder for me to use the mornings for anything selfish. Vanderkam acknowledges this too: she gave birth to a daughter last fall, and that trumped all of her morning habits for quite awhile. But she sees this as a temporary change, and feels confident that she will be able to get some time back for herself with a little creative maneuvering. I hope I can do that as well. I don't know nearly enough about mothering yet, but I do know myself, and I think I'll be a better mother if I can carve out a little time just for me: a bike ride, a walk, a few minutes to read or blog. Vanderkam proves to me that this is possible. I guess that explains why her work speaks so strongly to me right now.