I am not a morning person by any stretch. I have been a night owl for as long as I can remember. In college I could do all-nighters regularly, but waking up for an 8 a.m. class was impossible. My morning routine often consisted of staying in bed until the absolute last possible minute, rushing through the shower, throwing on the first outfit I came across and running out the door to get to work on time. I’m never late, but it certainly wasn’t a foundation built for a successful day.
I recently read an e-book by Laura Vanderkam called What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings—and Life. The book was extremely helpful for me, and I highly recommend it if you are unsatisfied with your hectic morning routine. In the book she suggests three things that should be done before the rest of the world is awake: nurturing your career, nurturing your relationships and nurturing yourself. I have applied these three categories to my morning routine and have found them to be very beneficial.
Nurturing my career
Vanderkam describes this as time for “strategizing and focused work.” She recommends not checking e-mail or doing any of the things that will get done during the normal course of the day. As a teacher, much of our day is filled with interruptions. She recommends this morning time be used for things that require focused work without interruptions. IEP planning and development, in-depth lesson planning, reading research journals and grant writing for my classroom are some things I have found helpful during this time.
Nurturing my relationships
According to Vanderkam, the most successful people spend time “giving their families and friends their best.” Everyone in education understands that teaching is not an 8 a.m.-3 p.m. job. Even if you don’t take home papers to grade, evaluations to write and parent phone calls to make, you still go home at the end of the day tired and worn thin from the stresses of being a special education teacher. My relationships aren’t getting the best me at the end of the day. My wife and I joked that our entire first year of teaching went like this—wake up, school, nap, dinner, sleep, repeat.
Vanderkam recommends waking up early enough to have breakfast with your spouse or your kids. They get a fresher and less stressed you before you go to work. On mornings I don’t have soccer, my wife and I carpool to work. Instead of rehashing all the stressful events of the day after it happened, we spend the 30-minute ride talking about what we are looking forward to, special things happening in our class and what we hope to get done.
Vanderkam recommends “exercise and spiritual and creative practices” to rejuvenate you before tackling work. Many of my Reality 101 posts have been written pre-6 a.m. I also try to exercise before work on most days. I also enjoy reading for pleasure before going to work.
If you’re like me, getting all this done before work may sound daunting. The book was written towards business professionals and creative types who often don’t have to be at work until 9 a.m. For teachers who often have to be at work by 7:30 a.m., the plan may need some modifications. Some morning activities can help you meet two of the categories.
For example, if my wife and I eat breakfast together, I am nurturing myself by eating a good breakfast, but I am also nurturing my relationships by spending time with my wife. Exercising together and carpooling are other ways you can multi-task the morning routine. Vanderkam also recommends doing things the night before to save time in the morning. Laying out clothes and preparing lunch or breakfast can save time in the morning.
I have found that following this plan lays a good foundation for a successful day. What have you found to be a good way to start your day?