Back To You: Make over your morning (plus giveaway!)

success before breakfast

Last week I announced that my bloggy buddy Jessica Ashley and I will be embarking on a month-long project called Back To You, helping moms remember to take care of themselves during the busy back-to-school season. Look out for Back To You posts several times a week now through October 4: there will be a bunch of fun giveaways, challenges and do-able activities to get you energized, refreshed and focused for fall.

School’s back in, and I’m back to real life and hoping you’ll join in as we get Back To You! To kick things off, I wanted to talk about morning routines – perhaps one of the most difficult things to overhaul during the school year, after we’ve gotten used to later nights and brighter morning wake-up calls.

And since we’re talking about mornings, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to delve into author, time-management expert and mom of three Laura Vanderkam’s ebook, What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings— and Life.

To sweeten the pot, Laura and I are offering a cool giveaway! Two of you will win a morning makeover consultation from Laura herself (which will be published here!), plus a copy of the book.

Success Before Breakfast While What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast does use some pretty high-profile people for examples of effective morning routines (like the CEO of Pepsi, for example), anyone can apply the advice to their lives. Its basic message, in a nutshell? Get up earlier, and use your time with intention.

If you’re like me, the very idea of getting up earlier sounds dreadful. I’d always considered myself a night owl: somebody who loves to burn the midnight oil. And since I’ve been blessed with kids who will sleep until 8 or 9 or even 10 AM if not woken, it was pretty easy for me to hang onto my teenage inner clock well into my adult years.

But a couple of years ago I came to realize that I was just fooling myself. I don’t do my best work after 5 or 6 PM or so, and I can barely think after 9 PM. So if I stay up late to finish a blog post or even to read, I’m not really focused, not really giving it my all…and I’m shorting myself on the other end; those quiet mornings I could use to prepare for the day, enjoy a second cup of tea, or just sit in silence for a little while before the day’s demands take over.

From the book:

Successful people have priorities they want to tackle, or things they like to do with their lives, and early mornings are the time when they have the most control of their schedules…the day can quickly get away from you as other people’s priorities invade—sometimes even those of the people you love dearly and share a home with.

So true. Pouring bowls of cereal, changing the first diaper, finding clothes, packing lunches, checking email as it starts to roll in around 8 or 9 AM…all those things are part of life, but if you haven’t had any time to think about how you’d like your day to go, it’s easy to get lost in a never-ending flow of urgent (or seemingly urgent) little details.

But the fact that I often get up later than I’d like has nothing to do with lack of desire. I know how much better I feel when I get up early. I know how much more productive I can be in those wee hours, how much calmer I feel when the kids get up, and how fantastic it feels to fall into bed at 9 PM barely able to keep my eyes open, knowing I’ve put in a full, happy day.

Knowing those things doesn’t always get me out from under the covers at first light, however.

If you aren’t a natural early riser, making the change takes self-discipline, which will eventually become habit After all, Laura argues, you don’t sit in the bathroom in the morning debating over whether or not you’re going to brush your teeth today; you just do it. If I can get myself up an hour earlier than usual to make my kids a big breakfast every now and then, why can’t I do that everyday?

The answer, of course, is that I can, I just have to want it badly enough. And once I make getting up earlier a habit, I need to find a way to use the time well so that I’ll have incentive to keep on going.

In her book, Laura offers a five-step plan for making over your morning. I’ll be taking ten or fifteen minutes to put this into practice tonight, and I hope you’ll join me!

1. Track Your Time

While Laura recommends tracking an entire 148-hour week to see how you’re really spending your time, I think you can start smaller. After all, it doesn’t take a ton of analysis to realize that if I stay up until 2 AM to finish that Game of Thrones book that I won’t be of much use at 6 AM (plus, I’ve been having some really freaky dreams about Theon Greyjoy.) I figure I need to be in bed by 9:30 PM and asleep by 10 PM to start the morning fresh, so I’m taking a close look at the way I’ve been spending my time after 9 PM to see what can get shuffled.

2. Picture the Perfect Morning

Ah, visualizing – one of my favorite activities! For me, the perfect morning would include a brisk walk, a solitary cup of tea, and a chance to read an interesting story or two before waking the kids. I’d be calm and well-prepared, with all school-related items (lunches, permission slips, etc) ready, and plenty of patience for sitting and talking with the kids over breakfast. After getting them out the door for school I’d be totally ready to attack my work day. Somehow, just typing all that out makes it seem much more possible.

3. Think Through the Logistics

This is the step where you figure out how to make the above happen. What are you currently doing with your morning hours? How much of it is necessary? What can get bumped to another time of day? Laura’s book has some great suggestions for working through the logistics of making room for what you want in your morning.

4. Build the Habit.

Ahh, this is always the hard part, isn’t it? Laura offers several techniques for making this part easier. Maybe you’ll ease into an earlier morning, setting your alarm for 15 minutes earlier each day until you reach your perfect wake-up time. Maybe you’ll add one new habit at a time or choose a fun activity to “pre-commit” to. Accountability works well for me: if there are enough of you who could use a friendly nudge, maybe we could meet up on Facebook for an early morning chat? Let me know in the comments and we’ll get it going!

5. Fine-Tune.

I love that Laura included this very necessary step. One of my biggest personal happiness rules is “don’t be afraid to change what isn’t working.” As your life changes, your morning routine may have to change with it…and that’s perfectly okay.

Feeling inspired? I’d love to hear about your perfect morning, and what steps you plan to take to get there. If you had an extra hour or two to do anything, how would you use it? What habits or other obstacles are getting in the way of a peaceful, productive morning? How could you most use Laura’s help if she chose you for a morning makeover?

Keep in mind that the winning makeovers will be published here, though you’re welcome to comment under a pseudonym. (If you want to join the conversation but aren’t interested in being considered for the morning makeover, just let us know.)

Comments will close on this post Friday, September 7 at 1 PM EST, and Laura will choose two winning entries next week. The makeover posts will be published later this month. Can’t wait to talk mornings with all of you!

Read other Back To You posts here!

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