Before Breakfast

By January 30, 2014 76 Comments

Last week, via a friend’s Facebook post, I came across this Inc. Magazine article, “12 Things Successful People Do Before Breakfast.

The article reflects a certain set of ideas that are dominant in our culture:

productivity = doing more
successful people = people with big titles and high powered careers
being more productive => being more happy

As I read the twelve tips in the article, I kept hearing responses to each one in my head. It sounded like this:

Inc Magazine says Successful People… I say Sane/Happy/Successful People…
They wake up early. They sleep in when they need it and don’t feel guilty about it.
They exercise before it falls off the to-do list. They notice when exercise feels like a burdensome item on a to-do list, and shift to a new form of movement that feels more fun.
They work on a top-priority business project. They work a personal, creative, spiritual or professional endeavor that fits well with how they feel in the mornings. Or sometimes, they don’t work at all because they know rest and work and savoring are all important.
They connect with their spouses.Says the article: “What could be better than pre-dawn sex to energize you for the day? After all, regular sex may make you smarter, boost your income, and burn calories.”   If they make love in the morning, it’s not because it will help them be more productive, but because it feels wonderful and connects them to someone they love.
They network over coffee. They pour high quality cream in their coffee. Then they drink it slowly.


They meditate to clear their minds. They meditate to cultivate equanimity and compassion, so that they cause less suffering to themselves and to other human beings.
They plan and strategize while they’re fresh. They know that their best work happens not when they plan and strategize, but when they let plans and strategies come to them, especially during idle times, like on a long walks and while soaking in the bath.
They read the news. They read what’s old. They turn to spiritual texts again and again to remember what’s been true for thousands of years, to gain insight into the fundamental human dynamics  going on behind all those stories in the news.

I suppose that during those times in one’s life when you are feeling like you just can’t get anything done, like your priorities don’t get your attention, like you are more sluggish than energetic, more lost than organized, productivity tips are really helpful. I’m glad they are out there for people during those times. But being productive is not the same as doing important work, and being productive won’t  care for our hearts, save our planet or buoy those we love.




Join the discussion 76 Comments

  • Tania says:

    Amen to all that Tara. In the past I would have been that person who was all over an article like that, attempting to tick all the box’s as clearly this was the right approach for success.But I’m pleased to say, I am mellowing, throwing out the rules that don’t serve my spiritual or creative spirit. Who is to tell me how I can be my most productive other than myself. And who should define my productivity other than me? The greatest gift I can give myself is to listen and respect my needs especially when it means it enables me to love more and to give back to others more. Thanks for your sharing your thought starters.

  • Nancy tomkins says:

    Tara, i so agree with your take on this article … I got up early today not to get more done but to slow down, to sit and have more time to relax while drinking my coffee, yes with cream! Nancy

  • Lisa McKay says:

    LOVED this!! Read it out loud to my husband and we laughed.

  • diana says:

    Dear Tara, I’m so much working on productivity improvement these days and your comment to standard producitivity ideas like the ones on left column are SOOOO interesting fo rme now! I agree to everything, you just helped me put down and clarify my deepest feelings and thoughts aboout my way to live my own time. I am focusing a way to live WITH time, not against time, to live with me AND the things that needs to be done, but in a way that fits my being moment by moment. Resonating and listening to my life and the world around me as they intertwine and dance together. Love you!

  • […] really appreciated this take on things “successful” people do before breakfast. Highly recommended quick […]

  • Jen says:

    Your interpretations make a lot of sense, Tara. As you said, maybe these productivity articles can be helpful to some but they can be dehumanising and add more pressure. Beautifully put.

  • Tilly says:

    Great post. I LOLed at the bit about sex – so glad I don’t think about income and calories while doing it. I’m a productivity geek – love testing out new strategies for getting things done – but since I became my own boss I’m also loving the fact that I can have loads of fun at the same time, and do absolutely nothing if I feel like it.

  • Hannah says:

    Yes! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this Tara. One of my biggest self-care decisions has been *not* using an alarm: I wake up naturally when I’m ready and I feel much better for it.

    Whenever I see one of those articles, it reminds me that there are many different versions of “success”, and the the most important thing is that we work out what that terms means for us as individuals.

  • Dana says:

    Well-written. Reading those articles can sometimes lead you to believe you aren’t happy or successful. I’m not a bright-n-early morning person and my balance has always come in the forms you mentioned on the right. I love being productive and I do that best when I am grounded, connected and working with the concept of time being on my side instead of against me.

  • Yes, yes and yes again, Tara!!! I woke up this morning, wrote a poem and had a cup of coffee. Feeling so productive!!!

  • Phyllis Perry says:

    Thanks for a sane response! I read that same article. It didn’t make me feel more “productive.” I felt like I always feel when I read something like that: hopeless. What you’re teaching is so important, because the culture doesn’t seem to always “see” people like us who give off energy and work in different ways. And, goodness, I’m so glad I don’t think about productivity during meditation or sex.

  • LOVE this, Tara.

    I have always been a Type-A gal, but am finally learning how to find and go with my natural groove. It’s not always easy, but once you learn that’s it’s not about control, the whole world seems to open up like magic.

    I used to run around constantly telling myself that I was so busy-so busy-so busy and didn’t have time for reading or writing or coffee with friends or sleeping in or goofing off or ANYthing other than work and parenting responsibilities. I’m not sure what happened, but one day I just decided that I DID have time. I started making a few coffee dates. I spent an hour reading a favorite book from my childhood. I made time to just “noodle” in the morning. You know what? The sky didn’t fall & I actually felt more productive AND more relaxed.

    It’s sometimes a challenge to let go, but it always turns out to be worth it.

  • Tara, I am amazed at the perspective you have for such a young woman. I am approaching 60, and I have “been there, and done THAT”….The comments are treasures in themselves. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

  • Bravo! I’ve been grappling with a similar article I read recently. I put all the Must Do’s on my list. Do I do them? Do I energize my day with exercise, list-making, meditation and coffee? No, I don’t do it in that order. Thanks for putting to words what was brewing in my heart for a couple of weeks. I think I’ll go at my own pace from now on.

  • Selin says:

    Hi Tara, thanks for this post! Whenever I read such lists, I always feel disconnected from them and that those tips just don’t apply to me, or my life. This always made me feel separate and different, which isn’t really earth shattering to me. But it just remained in the back of my mind. However, reading your post, I now understand why. No matter how hard I try to remain true to myself, I, like many others I’m sure, need gentle reminders to make deeper connections and the tips like the ones in that article miss that aspect completely. Many thanks!

  • This is SO FAB! I consult with a company that is all about the Inc. model and I’m all about your model. They’ve hired me to help them with retention and training – and I don’t do anything remotely corporate – and the employees are eating it up! We need to change our definition of productive and successful. Thank you Tara, for all the beautiful work – and words – you put out into the world! <3

  • Meg says:

    So grateful for this article today. So many times we read ‘common sense’ articles like this and never stop to think–is this actually what I believe to be true? is this in line with how I see the world and my priorities? Love the reminder to stop, assess and reframe in the context of what is truly helpful for our productivity/mental health. I bet I so often skim over things like this without realizing that I’m letting beliefs sneak in that aren’t in line with the rest of what I believe or how I want to operate. Thanks for pointing this out.

  • krystina says:

    Great post! Also I kept thinking while reading the original article… do these successful people do all this crap before breakfast?!?! I don’t know about other people, but it probably would take me all the way through lunch to get all that done.

  • Ekongkar Khalsa says:

    Awesome! Thank you for amending these ‘success’ habits; Thank you also for slightly amending Inc’s idea of success. Love this 🙂 🙂

  • Amy says:

    Thanks for writing this. No wonder we put so much pressure on ourselves! It’s so nice to remember that we are human beings, not human doings!

  • Sallie says:

    Hear, hear! You bring some sanity to our work-crazed society. Well said.

  • Ivy says:

    So refreshing – setting a priority of taking care of mind, body, and soul before taking care of profitability!

    And seriously, the idea of sex as a productivity technique on a to-do list?!? When did we become so disconnected from what’s really important?

  • Tina B says:

    Brilliantly put Tara. I’m going to print this out and put it in my journal to refer back to when I slip into old habits.

  • dona says:

    Thank you for this. I had a similar gut response when I read that article a while back, but I wasn’t able to articulate my disagreement so clearly.

    I’ve been struggling with creating a nurturing morning routine since I became a mom and your words help shape my idea of a nurturing morning. I don’t really need productive mornings, I need nurturing ones!

  • Pamela Stenger-Tiedtke says:

    I find your comments very refreshing and motivating. Thank you!

  • Aakriti says:

    Oh my God, HOW I loved this! Print-and-paste-on-the-bathroom-mirror-to-read-every-morning stuff 😀
    Thanks Tara

  • Jackie says:

    Amen and YES!!! thank you for sharing this and thank Godness that we are now in a place and time that we can recognize it and usher it in as a new way of BEing/DOing in the 21st century.

  • Diane says:

    Tara…you rocked it in your blog today. And, BTW….blogs are my “news” most days. No time for make believe or significantly slanted perspectives from people who are more interested in triggering my reactive mind rather then my empathic soul.

  • Ange says:

    Oh how this resonates with me…..thank you Tara for sharing your wisdom!

  • katya says:

    Too often in today’s society we’re told that if we’re not being 100% productive every waking moment, then we’re not succeeding or we’re not doing enough. Thank you for this reminder that it’s OK to not be planning your next career move as soon as you roll out of bed.

  • Julia says:

    Wonderful, Tara! Thanks for sharing. Ironically, it’s amazing how much more “productive” (in the conventional sense) we become when we are not fussing about being productive. LOL. In the future people will treat their minds and bodies with a lot more awareness and respect. I hope. We’ll stop trying to follow recipes to be happy. We’ll just be happy. I’m trying this in the present. It becomes disheartening at times when everyone else is still so focused on the old fashioned view of what should make us happy.

  • Maria says:

    Tara, I think it is the first time I am commenting although I have been reading you for the last 6 months.

    I LOVED! Loved, loved, loved! Totally ressonates in what I think! Thank you for sharing!

  • Julia says:

    Awesome! I love it! I hope I can quote you: “human beings not human doings”.

  • Donna Davis says:

    Hello Tara,

    Very funny and feisty as well as lovely and true
    you made my already weary day
    and gave me faith for this journey

    nothing “succeeds’ like Grace

  • You go, girl. This is beautiful, powerful reframing.

  • Well said! Thanks so much, always, Tara, for sharing your voice.

  • Carol says:

    Yes! Thank you so much for saying this.

  • Tara,

    I absolutely love your perspective here. I recently found out that Linkedin and Citi did a study on the path that leads to success and a high percentage of both men and women put a high priority on Work Life Balance. In fact, that is one of the most talked about topics in the LinkedIn group. To me, your perspective is more balanced and to me allows people to be in harmony with what is truly important to them!

  • Rebecca says:

    Yes! Love this. All points made are so true. Thank you for sharing the common thought so many of us share.

  • Dana says:

    Oh love it!
    And the irony in your final lines is that as one your readers I happen to know that in your (relative) dormancy you are of course being productive of an entire human life!!
    Pregnancy (and its lessons), which only multiply in parenting, ends up being a perfect illustration of how immense creativity, life, and growth actually happen. Clearly, they happen when we sit back and let them! To be pregnant is the ultimate teacher of where our miraculousness actually comes from (and its not our to-do list!)Wonderful piece!

  • Dana Maya says:

    Oh love it!
    And the irony in your final lines is that as one your readers I happen to know that in your (relative) dormancy you are of course being productive of an entire human life!!
    Pregnancy (and its lessons), which only multiply in parenting, ends up being a perfect illustration of how immense creativity, life, and growth actually happen. Clearly, they happen when we sit back and let them! To be pregnant is the ultimate teacher of where our miraculousness actually comes from (and its not our to-do list!)Wonderful piece!

  • I laughed when I saw the title of this piece in my Inbox, Tara, because I’d seen the same article buzzing about on social media and I didn’t click on it at all because I knew the kind of people who are described as successful in magazines and on social media, are the not the kind of people I consider successful!

    And your responses captured the opposite viewpoint beautifully. Thank you!

  • Thank you for this post! I LOVE WHAT YOU WROTE!!!

  • June De Sena says:

    Just finished my morning walk. I loved it. It makes me feel good, deep down inside of my spiritual self. Then read your article and had to laugh. I once bought into what society said was ‘successful’ and here I am. Re-learning life in the past 20 yrs. It was soooo painful to try and read a book during the day. After all, that wasn’t productive! Sleep after 6 AM? You must be kidding, after all, the early bird catches the worm, right? So, here I am: retired. Probably didn’t achieve goals I wanted. Does it matter? No. Besides, how good could that worm really taste? It has been difficult to REALLY not feel guilty, but I AM going to achieve this before I leave the planet. Well, I’ve go to go….want to shower, sip my coffee and read that book! Thanks for the good read, Tara!!

  • […] Successful People to Do Before Breakfast is almost beyond parody. But Tara Sophia Mohr gives a thoroughly well-deserved pushback to its alpha male […]

  • thanks for the hat tip to savoring and for being you – as I do daily interview for the Life Organizer half the time I want to yank my hair out at the questions about squeezing more out of life, squeezing more in… have a wonderful baby time!!

  • Thank you, Tara. Wisdom that is much needed.

  • Anna says:

    Thank goddess we are here, and thank you, Tara for voicing the wisdom of a woman full of child and blessed with wonderful priorities and perspective.

    The question is: how can we support people who cannot linger over coffee or choose when to work — to find, take, and use the time to nourish themselves like you have learned to do?

    One answer, of course, is to enable them to engage with you and Playing Big work and with our work that shares such a perspective. Every blessing to you, Tara. If you’re holding the little one in your arms already, bravo, too! If not, bravo, three!

  • Erin says:

    Just what I needed to hear 🙂 Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Tara – as always, very inspiring.

  • Sara says:

    Yes. Oh yes. Thank you. So much of what you say resonates with me, over and again.

  • Mar says:

    Thank you for this, Tara! It makes my heart sing to see you answer that list the way you have.

    I have been feeling so frustrated with the proliferation of LISTS OF THINGS TO DO TO BE SUCCESSFUL that are all over the internet and media these days. Yet they never stop to question a) what is success, and b) does it really make sense that the way to be successful (in any way) is to copy others who appear to be successful?

    I know that I operate on a different wavelength from other people and I also know that I come off as pretty type A to most people who meet me. But I’m operating outside type A and B – and these days I’m really living more on my own terms.

    I am so grateful to read your article that questions the logic of what Inc says (and all the other articles I’ve seen lately about copying successful people).

    I like what Scott Adams (Dilbert cartoonist) has to say: systems help people be more successful rather than goals. Seeking peace, happiness, and awareness in the AM is part of a system. Stressing myself out over making sure I network over coffee or whether I’m doing technically productive work in the early AM is part of the goal mentality. It’s like saying, I won’t be good enough until I lose 10 pounds or maximize pre-breakfast productivity… rather than saying that my system is to do what feels right in the morning in order to start my day in the most harmonious way. I will enjoy movement and activity each day. I will seek simple and productive ways of doing things. Those are systems that help, not a frantic list of to-do’s that don’t make sense for THIS ME to do before breakfast.

  • Debra says:

    This post gives me the sense of a wonderful exhale. Thank you, Tara.

  • Darlene says:

    Loved it, especially the last part about the news. The news just makes one sick. So I read spiritual works that set my mind on higher things that will make me useful and kind to others. That is the best time of my day! Thanks Tara.

  • Stacy says:

    One of your best Tara! A great companian piece to the Rules of Brilliant Women. I will save this one to refresh myself from time to time. Thank you so much for your heart and wisdom! Will share this one often!!

  • Dee says:

    Halle.frickin.leuia! Tara these words are brilliant, wise, & healthy…wholesome. Thankyou Life for public voices of compassion, care, and Sense!!!

  • Denise Dare says:

    Ahhh. Surrender. Trust. Invoking the muse. Choosing to tune in…such wise guidance, Tara.

    Thank you for reminding us to re~vision what is valuable and meaningful in our lives.

    So much love.

  • Jenna says:

    I don’t know about anyone else, but if I tried to master each of those tasks every morning, my breakfast would be at 11:00 p.m.

    Thank you for your beautiful, peaceful, intelligent and fearless approach to questioning mainstream thought here. I know so many who would benefit from reading this, so I will share.

    Much love.

  • Cher says:

    Thank you for saying what I’ve been trying to articulate for the past few months. I’ve felt caught between the advice of hustling/always being on and being compassionate, kind and listening to myself. While I know the latter is what my soul wants, the former is so popularly accepted that I started to get this fear mentality that I was missing out if I didn’t do those things, like I would never “make it.” So much gratitude.

  • Serena says:

    Love this Tara, and couldn’t agree more! It’s definitely a balance staying up to date and current in the business world while also maintaining a healthy body and mindset. I’m printing this list and tacking it to my wall 🙂

  • Sylvia Valevicius says:

    Hi Tara,

    I read blogs from many people but am too rushed to respond – just appreciate them; however, today I must say that you are so right. I used to be more like the other side, and your words just bring me PEACE. What could be more important in a person’s life than that?
    THANK YOU, Tara,
    Sylvia V. twitter: @Jtosnest

  • Divya says:

    Well spotted, aptly deconstructed, and brilliantly written. Thanks, Tara! x

  • Eugene says:

    Beautiful reminder. Thank you!

  • ASH says:

    I luv it Tara. You’re my hero! Tara Mohr for president!

  • […] must-read response from Tara on a productivity article. I’ve written articles like this myself, and I also get […]

  • Alyssa says:

    Thank you for standing for individuality. So many publications, websites, speakers with ideas want to tell the world a process for handling life. Tara, you do it differently. You know that there is no one formula for all people. You empower people to notice and appreciate themselves for who they already are.

  • Wendy Lynne says:

    Relax into vs beating myself into submission – love it!

  • Laura Toller Gardner says:


  • Mary Liz says:

    This post rang SO true! I was so behind reading blog posts, but this one made me applaud. Thank you for your work and for sharing it!

  • Laura says:

    Always the voice of reason and calm and sanity. Thank you Tara. I love this!

  • Hana T. says:

    Synchronicity! Your blog post struck a chord with me, and reminds me of this quote I read just prior to reading your blog post,

    “The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.” – Dalai Lama

  • samiyah says:

    Tara I agree with all. I love the connected spiritual perspective. I actually do all of the above list on the list, but for the reasons you have chosen. So cool

  • […] I say Sane/Happy/Successful People… They meditate to cultivate equanimity and compassion, so that they cause less suffering to themselves and to other human beings. […] If they make love in the morning, it’s not because it will help them be more productive, but because it feels wonderful and connects them to someone they love.” ~ Tara Sophia Mohr, Before Breakfast […]

  • Maggie says:

    Dear Tara, Hi…one of your newest members. I love all of the newest inspirations to consider and I agree with you on most of them that I will use and apply..currently..I’m always about the good that we can do for ourselves and each other on Life’s path..it’s what keeps me going along with the many more affirmations and tip’s on how to be a better person and how to do this life path…thanks for the support and tip’s to find solutions and answers…take care

  • […] really appreciated this take on things “successful” people do before breakfast. Highly recommended quick […]

  • […] Before Breakfast by Tara Sophia Mohr- Do we really need to be more productive or sane and happy. I love how this is direct and to the point. […]

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