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I find that my absolutely most productive time is right as I wake up, especially if it's early--5am-ish till probably 7am is that sacred window of time.

I always do things that I really want to do and are meaningful to me in that time--as opposed to things I "have" to do or are urgent. This often involves programming personal projects or studying a programming book. I find that if I promise myself that I'll do those things that I love first thing, it's much easier to wake up (really) early and especially get out of bed--the motivation is critical for me.

Problem is, that motivation is partially lost as soon as I put any routines between waking up and getting to work--such as eating.

So I'm looking for the compromise on that trade-off--how long should I go without eating at all, or drinking water for that matter, or taking a break? For how long should I leverage that motivation by working uninterrupted, before the fall on productivity offsets the motivation boost?

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First of all, It's hard to me to think of having breakfast as a routine. I regard it as just the moment when you feel hungry for the first time in a day... – Nicolás Nov 23 '11 at 21:50
Well, it's not the ideal to eat JUST when you already feel hungry. I say that because I try to have 5 or 6 meals a day. So in that context, it's a good idea to eat something (not much, just something, hopefully non-sugary) right as you get up, so within 2-3 hours you can already be having another meal. – Vic Goldfeld Nov 23 '11 at 22:04
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I agree--it's a great time of day.

When I know I'm doing it, I prep the night before. Often that first "meal" for me is instant oatmeal, which can be made during the session, w/o major cognitive disruption.

Or I'll have a (good, often home-made) meal/granola/etc. bar ready at my workspace if I want to avoid even the 1-2 minutes it takes to throw the oatmeal in the microwave.

Or a ready-to-drink protein drink.

I'm a pretty firm believer in "when hungry, eat" (and its corollary, if you're not, don't) -- but the morning, for me, is a little different, because I know I've gone catabolic and dry during the night, so some whey-ish protein and water is high on my list to let my body know I'm not actually trying to kill it. Until beer-thirty.

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The tip on having some quick cereal bar on the workspace is great, might just be my compromise right there. – Vic Goldfeld Nov 27 '11 at 12:51

I do exactly the same - I often keep breakfast as the reward for completing a particular chunk of work. If, however, you notice your concentration going then it is probably time to have breakfast.

I would suggest not going past 8am if you are starting at 5am - partly to get an opportunity to walk around - which you should try and do regularly anyway.

Alternatively - if you see the sun going down then it definitely is time to eat (has happened on major coding sessions)

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I also find it helpful to work first thing in the morning before doing anything else.

It might be best to set up a plan for the day before you go to bed at night. Determine what time you need to start your morning routine in order to get the "urgent" and "have to" tasks done at a reasonable time. You essentially have a breakfast appointment. This way your food needs will get met and your urgent tasks will get done. If it is a "day off" where you don't have any "urgent" or "have to" tasks, then you have significantly more flexibility.

I would recommend not going more than 4-5 hours without food or water. Whatever you do, don't skip lunch. The best bet is to head toward breakfast before your body distracts you 3 times from your work due to hunger.

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