5 Things the Most Successful Entrepreneurs Do Before Breakfast

Marcia Layton Turner

In many homes, mornings are chaotic. There is hustle and bustle as members of the household arise, gather their tools and equipment, and steel their minds for the day ahead.

Many entrepreneurs are like other adults in the hours before their day officially begins. They rise, get dressed, maybe read the paper, glance at their emails, look at their schedule, eat some breakfast or enjoy a cup of coffee, and then they head out to start their day.

But the most successful entrepreneurs are different.

They don’t just rush out the door each morning. Before starting work, they invest time in activities likely to help them be more productive, happier, and more energized, says Laura Vanderkam, author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. Entrepreneurs have the most control over their schedule in the morning, so setting aside time for these activities early in the day makes it easier to make them a habit.

Here are five things the most successful entrepreneurs do before breakfast:

1. They exercise.

“It’s so important for people who have busy lives to take care of themselves,” says Vanderkam, and “the people who exercise in the morning are more consistent.” Research reported in Health Psychology confirms this. Joe Howard, head buff at WP Buffs, bikes to and from the office every day to fit in his exercise, he says. “It’s about a 30-minute ride through traffic, so it definitely gets my blood pumping. Riding helps me clear my mind and tackle any anxiety I’m feeling so that when I get to work, I’m ready to dig in.”

“Physical activity is a well-known energy booster,” says Vanderkam. “If you have more energy, you’re better able to focus on tough business issues, and to get your work done without feeling exhausted.” The better your level of fitness, the greater your stamina, and the higher your daily productivity, Vanderkam concludes.

It’s also efficient, as engaging in exercise in the morning means that you only have to shower once, she points out.

2. They spend time with family.

It’s hard to control exactly when you leave work, grants Vanderkam, so reconvening at the end of every day for dinner can often be difficult. What can you control? When you start work. A family breakfast is one way some entrepreneurs enjoy starting their day.

Breakfast doesn’t have to be the focus, however. Toshi Yamamoto, founder and CEO of ChatWork,and his wife take their kids to school together “to maximize the quality time we do have.”

Tony and Allison Liddle together own Prosper Wealth Management and, while they work in the same office, they don’t necessarily spend much time together during the work day, says Tony Liddle. “So every morning before the kids wake up and before we do anything else, is ‘us’ time. Just talking, drinking coffee, and enjoying each other’s presence,” he says.

“Starting a business can be stressful on a relationship,” says Vanderkam, which is why spending time with your spouse and/or children helps stay you connected and close.

3. They invest time networking.

Entrepreneurs often get so caught up in crises during the day that they can’t make time to connect with employees, colleagues, clients, or mentors. And if you can’t control what time you leave the office, it’s going to be tough to make it to networking happy hours or dinners, says Vanderkam. But breakfast is often doable.

“Few people are booked for breakfast meetings,” she says, so it’s an easier time to connect with those people with whom you’d like to build a relationship.

4. They spend time on creative work.

According to Vanderkam, creativity isn’t a trait. “People aren’t ‘creative’ or ‘not creative.'” Creativity is a skill you can build that helps you generate more innovative and effective solutions in your business. “Exercise that part of your brain in a morning routine, and you may find yourself having better and more creative business ideas, too.” Creative exercises could include an activity like painting, journaling, playing an instrument, or working on a pet project.

Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal, says that he plays the piano first thing in the morning. “Playing an instrument has been scientifically proven to engage practically every area of the brain at once, especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices, so it gets my mental capacity going. It’s like a mental full-body workout,” he says. Music instruction and participation has a positive impact on language, IQ and test scores, and spatial intelligence, which helps develop problem-solving skills.

Lindsey Handley, PhD, chief operating officer of ThoughtSTEM, uses her mornings for fun work. “Every morning after I wake up, I head to Starbucks with my laptop to work on fun side projects that help me grow as an entrepreneur,” says Handley.

Right now that project is an in-browser video game inspired by games she played in her childhood. Although such projects are for pleasure, says Handley, they also serve a purpose. She explains, “I do not have a formal computer science degree and have been learning coding over the past several years through morning projects like this one.”

5. They ponder the big picture.

The quiet of the morning can be a great time to engage in big- picture thinking. That includes considering, “Where do you want to be and how will you get there,” says Vanderkam.

Lisa Chu, owner of Black N Bianco Kids Apparel, uses her mornings to brainstorm and plan. “Without any interruptions and disconnecting from technology, I can focus on using my creativity to enhance my business. I come up with the most beneficial business strategies during the morning hours, when my brain is fresh and full of creative ideas,” says Chu.

Lorna Johnson, MSN, NM, NP, founding partner of the Advanced Family Care Medical Group, has found that mentally stimulating activities like Bikram yoga or a walk, help her big-picture think. “Some days, big picture thinking leads to action and trumps exercise” in terms of benefiting her well-being, she says.

Try for yourself these five things that successful entrepreneurs do in the morning. You’ll find that all of these activities take less time than you might expect, says Vanderkam. “You can get a lot of fitness and mental health benefits in 30 minutes or less,” she says.

“Starting a business is stressful, and one of the ways to make it sustainable is to take care of yourself,” says Vanderkam. That includes engaging in activities early in the day that will both energize and focus you, making you better able to move your business forward instead of staying in a reactive mode all day.

Tell us: How do you prepare for your day?

23 Responses to "5 Things the Most Successful Entrepreneurs Do Before Breakfast"

    • Jacqueline Church | March 7, 2018 at 9:32 am

      I prepare for the day the night before. Helps sleep and also enables a quick start.

      Sleep itself is one of the keys to a productive day. Most people do not get sufficient sleep. Look at your day and see where you can recoup time (hello Facebook) for sleep.

      Don’t forget to make time for both short term tasks and for long term strategic plans.

      As I discover things I was too late for this year, I place a reminder 4 weeks ahead in next year’s calendar.

    • Jack Woolridge | April 26, 2018 at 7:47 am

      Thank you.

    • Solid Custom Cabinets | March 12, 2019 at 7:54 pm

      If you make time for exercise, coffee,and family in the morning half your day is gone

      Let’s get real… the most productive day is get up and get to it!

      Focus on production and relationships with employees is most important if your employees are not happy with there job and pay check you will not be successful!!

    • Greg Sirbu | March 12, 2019 at 10:26 pm

      Dear Smallbiz Ahead,

      Doing those five things before breakfast is going to be a huge challenge for most people, even entrepreneurs. Those five things, can many times, take up an entire day. Network before breakfast? Come on, if a person has breakfast at 7AM, who wants to network prior to then? Turn networking into a breakfast meeting, that can work, at the expense of the other four. Exercise before breakfast? Good idea, get up at 5AM to work out, and network, and spend time with the family, before they go off to school or work, contemplate the big picture, and be creative? All before breakfast? Really? What planet do you live on? I don’t do anything until I’ve had breakfast, read the paper, and drank at least three cups of coffee. And take care of the morning bodily requirements. Creativity? Isn’t that what we call work? Sorry, your fantasy five, all before breakfast, just isn’t going to work. Quality time with the kids is not taking them to school. Quality time with kids usually is after adult work ends, home work is done and gym time is done. Then it’s family time, usually wrapped around dinner. Here’s how I do it: get up, breakfast, coffee, scan/respond to the emails, creative time commences, accomplishing things blends in. Later morning meeting, Lunch meeting, afternoon meetings, contemplate the big picture always, end oup the work day. Gym/workout/dinner timeline mix, quality time with the family. Oh, wait, no wife, kids are grown and gone, focus on some work after dinner, relax prior to bed, then off to bed. That’s reality, not your fantasy five…….

    • Chris M. | March 12, 2019 at 10:35 pm

      Sing and dance. It’s that simple. We have a 3 year old and a five year old, so sometimes I harvest their energy, and other times I get the party started. It lightens the mood and reminds me what is important to me and why I actually invest time and energy into my business, as well as reminding all of us that although life is serious there is always time for silliness. In writing this now, I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and bust some moves!

    • Jorge GUERRA | March 12, 2019 at 10:41 pm

      Have a routine. If your working day starts at 8;00 and want to do something like working out or meditation you have to wake up at 5;00 am to do something sustantial during the morning. I do not think networking works on that timeframe.

    • Lee Rivenbark | March 12, 2019 at 10:41 pm

      Practicing ones religion or form of spirituality is also a very common trait. Prayer, meaningful meditation and studying the word of God will absolutely increase ones purpose and drive through out the daily grind.

    • Colleen Symanski | March 13, 2019 at 5:51 am

      Good article. I too, like Jacqueline, prepare the night before so I can can get a good night’s sleep. I am up by 5:00 am. I drink a glass of water with lemon to hydrate and thank my body for it’s work detoxing while I was sleeping. My morning routine includes enjoying a cup of coffee outside enjoying nature while all is quiet. A healthy breakfast is a must followed with a walk. This routine sets a good foundation for my day.

    • Louis M. Daniels | March 13, 2019 at 6:51 am

      Good article, however if you ask most successful business folks, big or small business what their morning routine consists of most will tell you they take a few minutes in prayer. As Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM once said at a shareholders meeting after reporting astounding earnings, “I feel like a turtle on a fence post, quite an accomplishment but I couldn’t have gotten here alone.”

    • GeeClare | March 13, 2019 at 8:42 am

      This is where my mobile phone is my friend. It’s also my portable “office” allowing me to exercise, network, spend more time with family. But you also need to know when to “stop.” Technology has helped me to connect more and giving me the peace of mind to know that I’m not “missing” anything important while I’m refocusing on other things

    • Ali | March 13, 2019 at 8:47 am

      Meditating!! It’s an absolute must!!

    • Jane Olson | March 13, 2019 at 9:37 am

      As we were told clear back in high school, I lay my clothes out the night before. Down to the jewelry. One less thing I have to think about in the morning.
      I always have coffee with my husband and talk about our upcoming day. We are always laughing about something.
      I watch 20 minutes of news and then no electronics until I get to work.
      I look over my schedule for the day before I leave the house.
      I start the day with a prayer.

    • Eunice Freeman | March 13, 2019 at 9:52 am

      I go for a walk each morning between 3 and 5 miles. While walking I plan my day. Once I arrive at my day I am ready for work with a very well developed schedule that I put on paper

    • Glenn Willis | March 13, 2019 at 10:15 am

      I have a routine that I follow every day that helps me focus and plan for the workday. I rise before my wife and give thanks to my higher power for the strength, knowledge, and compassion to make the day better for someone, be it customers, vendors, or employees. I then spend time cutting fruit and making smoothies for my wife, feeding the birds and cats, and going outside to sit without distraction for 15 minutes. I then feel energized and motivated to maintain and grow my business.

    • Mieke Schuyler | March 13, 2019 at 11:27 am

      I usually wake up very early, and I haven’t used an alarm clock for decades. I take a look around, clean the house, have coffee and often make a list. The list includes everything / everyone on my mind and just to be well orientated, I include the vitals: day, date and time of sunset, and weather. I shower and then I run to work about every-other day, sometimes everyday, 3.2 miles. I especially enjoy running in inclement weather, rain, snow, cold. I love to breath. I do sometimes give myself pep talks, asking myself what I can do to make the day the best possible, and sometimes I remind myself not to fear making the hard calls. Then, I just do my best, day by day. I have a happy disposition, thank goodness, and a positive outlook, so I see a lot of opportunity, generally. Preliminary preparedness relieves a lot of stress, so I try to stay ahead of schedule, and chump that I am, I treat people with respect, taking the time to ‘do the right thing’, as best I can. Morning is my favorite time of day. I love the solitude.

    • David Hill | March 13, 2019 at 11:44 am

      The Fab 5 doesn’t have any teeth. I’m with Lee and others. Spending time in God’s Word is the most essential thing one can do when they rise in the morning. I do this with my spouse. Then we pray together. Yes we are having coffee, yes we discuss the days events together, then we have breakfast and we are ready for the day! I exercise over my lunch hour- it breaks up the day. Then in the evening is family time.

      Thanks for the article.

    • Tori LIttlefield | March 13, 2019 at 11:52 am

      It is important to have some morning routine, but this this one is clearly written by someone with no partner, kids, pets, or plants. Let’s have a little reality check here. I wonder whether the Hartford person who posted this has tried to implement these 5 suggestions?

    • Cheryl Gerfin | March 14, 2019 at 9:42 am

      My partner and I awake, usually before the alarm, and we spend our morning time just holding each other. It keeps our relationship strong, connected, relieves stress and tension before the day begins. I have a full kitchen at work, so I make breakfast when I get there, and have coffee at my desk. I’m not about to check emails before any of that! I love how my morning starts each day. If anything, I’d love to change the end of the day – by the time we get dinner ready, it’s almost time for bed again.

    • Jeanette Howard | March 14, 2019 at 11:05 am

      I meditate for 20 minutes. I review my plan for the day and communicate with my mentors. I review the big picture. I spend time with my husband and my animals. I spend a few minutes outside no matter what the weather. I pray for others and I count my blessings.

    • Lawrence M | March 14, 2019 at 3:38 pm

      I agree with Greg. No way to do those five things in the morning before work. That is enough for a whole day!!

    • Kathryn | March 15, 2019 at 11:17 am

      After reading most everyone’s responses, I’m curious what time everyone goes to sleep. I am contemplating waking up earlier to get a jump start on my morning (I currently wake up around 7am, but only really get going after 8, as I drive my partner to work). 8 (or 9) hours of sleep is crucial for me. How about you?

    • Bruce McMillan | March 20, 2019 at 11:14 am

      Morning is the best time to get mentally and physically ready for the day. I am up at 5 AM, put on water for a hot cup of tea or coffee and settle in to about 20-30 minutes of devotional reading. I follow this with about 30 minutes of mild stretching and exercise before getting cleaned up for the office. Eat a light breakfast and then go to the mall for a 20 minute brisk walk and am in the office by 8 AM. I put in typically a 12 hour day and over 60 hours a week. I am 73 years old.

    • Dani Zandel | June 25, 2019 at 1:29 pm

      Great Article.
      I found myself compelled to respond due to the response from Greg Sirbu.
      He states that trying to fit this “dream list” in all before breakfast is impossible and unrealistic. I see this list in a slightly different view.
      First, I agree with Greg. The reality is that several of these concepts are not “5 minutes here,” and “10 minutes there.” They are concepts that take some time to prep before starting, time for the actuality, and then clean-up/cool down time. That said, any one of these items could take a full hour on it’s own to do, and not many people will start the day at 4am to accommodate a handul of these concepts before arriving to work by the common 9am or earlier.
      However, each concept has validity in the necessity.
      Exercise is important because without your health, you have NOTHING! 10-50 sit ups, or a few jumping jacks, or other small activities you can do right at your bedside before even changing out of your sleeping attire can get the blood flowing, and only take a few moments. You can always schedule a full-on workout to walk around the block or go to the gym for later in the day when it is easier to fit in.
      Family time is another huge one – and I love what Cheryl Gerfin shared about just being close with her partner in bed for a few moments before the day starts. We have become such a disconnected society. Family time does not need to be completing a 5000 piece puzzle before eating breakfast – it can be the time spent to get the kids up and moving. It can be the kids helping to make breakfast. It can be a 5 minute cuddle for the whole family in one bed or on the couch. It’s just as important for the adults, as Cheryl notes, as it is for the kids. And I’m not a professional in the field, and do not have statistics to back myself up, but I would bet good money that kids who are raised in families that carve out this time do better in school and grow up as more grounded and caring individuals than those handed to the nanny before they wake up and maybe see mom or dad for a few moments before bed. The day to day parental involvement is far more important than the one week summer vacation to Disneyland.
      Spending time on creative work and pondering the big picture – yes, I’m trying to consolidate. Again, this does not need to be painting a mural. Spending 5 minutes in bed writing in a journal can actually cover both of these items in one quick shot. So many of us just go, go, go…but we don’t evaluate where we are going to. This is a great opportunity to reflect on the day before, write thoughts of what we’d like to see for today, tomorrow, next week, or next decade….and put on paper the plan we have in our head.
      Lastly, networking….and I took this out of sequence because I am a HUGE believer in this opportunity. The article is right, most networking events occur at the end of the day, and we’re either too tired, or still working, and miss out. But most of our businesses can benefit from networking — and the relationship building is not an overnight happening, so networking is a really organic way to continuously build your pipeline of business opportunities – as well as to be of service to your friends, family, and clients. There are many organizations like BNI (Business Networking International) who offer structured breakfast networking meetings, which can increase your circle of influence, and bring other professionals into your life to help you become the problem solver. Another cool aspect is that your own sales team increases by the number of members in your group out there looking for opportunities to introduce you and your business. Yes, it takes time – about 2 hours if you plan well. But it’s just a once weekly morning meeting with a few additional meetings a month to help you get build relationships with the other people in the group. I left this for last because I’m a solopreneur, and I credit ALL of my business growth to BNI! But finding the right fit of a group is what matters most, and taking on a networking group is more often a form of marketing from which you will only get out of it what you put in.
      So, all of my thoughts shared on this fantastic article….I have one last thought to reply to Greg:
      This article may suggest all of these concepts be done each day before breakfast, and I think I’ve shared ways in which I see that being a possibility by spending just a few moments on each. But just in case, I think it’s important to suggest that a person and their family could likely get some benefit from planning ahead, setting the alarm clock a few moments earlier each morning, and implementing just one concept — or one concept per day.

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