"If it has to happen, then it has to happen first," writes Laura Vanderkam, a time-management expert and the author of "What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast."
Those among us who have managed to find professional success and eke out a life actively embrace this philosophy. They must set aside their first hours of the day to invest in their top-priority activities before other people's priorities come rushing in.
Science supports this strategy. Vanderkam cites the famous finding of Roy Baumeister, a Florida State University psychology professor, that willpower is like a muscle that becomes fatigued from overuse.
Diets, he says, come undone in the evening, just as poor self-control and lapses in decision-making often come later in the day. On the other hand, early mornings offer a fresh supply of willpower, and people tend to be more optimistic and ready to tackle challenging tasks.
So what do successful executives and entrepreneurs do when they are rested and fresh? From Vanderkam's study of morning rituals and our own research, we outline the following 14 things that the most successful people do before breakfast. While they might not do all of these things every morning, each has been found to be an effective way to start the day.
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They wake up early.
Successful people know that time is a precious commodity. And while theirs is easily eaten up by phone calls, meetings, and sudden crises once they've gotten to the office, the morning hours are under their control. That's why many of them rise before the sun, squeezing out as much time as they can to do with as they please.
In a poll of 20 executives cited by Vanderkam, 90% said they wake up before 6 a.m. on weekdays. PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, for example, wakes at 4 a.m. and is in the office no later than 7 a.m. Meanwhile, Disney CEO Bob Iger gets up at 4:30 to read, and Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey is up at 5:30 to jog.
The bottom line: Productive mornings start with early wake-up calls.
They drink water.
Many successful executives reach for water instead of coffee first thing in the morning.
Kat Cole, president of Focus Brands, parent company of Auntie Anne's, Carvel, and Cinnabon, wakes up a 5 a.m. every morning and drinks 24 ounces of water.
They exercise before it falls off the to-do list.
The top morning activity of the rich and powerful seems to be exercise, be it lifting weights at home or going to the gym.
For example, Vanderkam notes that Xerox CEO Ursula Burns schedules an hour-long personal training session at 6 a.m. twice a week. Plus, "Shark Tank" investor Kevin O'Leary gets up at 5:45 every morning and jumps on the elliptical or exercise bike, and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk starts every day with an hour-long workout with his trainer.
"These are incredibly busy people," says Vanderkam. "If they make time to exercise, it must be important."
Beyond the fact that exercising in the morning means they can't later run out of time, Vanderkam says a pre-breakfast workout helps reduce stress later in the day, counteracts the effects of high-fat diet, and improves sleep.
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