IT'S A TUESDAY morning when Bobbye Gorenberg walks into the beauty salon for her hair appointment. She's crisply dressed in a navy blue skirt and print blouse. There's a touch of freshly applied blue eye shadow and blush brightening her complexion.
Already she's been to her aerobics class, filled up her gas tank and stopped by her bank's ATM. Had she had dry cleaning to pick up, she would have done that, too, she says.
It's just past 7:30 a.m.
"I'm an early riser. I like to get things done before work," says the professor of nursing at San Jose State University, who plans to be at work by 9 a.m. With almost an hour and a half to go, that's plenty of time for a haircut and blow-dry.
Monday through Friday, while most of us are groping for the snooze alarm, Gorenberg is already navigating the near-empty streets, checking off those tiresome errands that nibble into our weekdays and swallow up our weekends. While most of us are using our lunch hours and Saturdays for those must-do activities, she's among the motivated, organized morning people we love to hate.
She's done it all before we've even buttered our toast.
"There's definitely a shift toward taking advantage of the earlier part of the day to get things done," says Geoffrey Godbey, a leisure studies professor at Pennsylvania State University. "It's our quest for a greater margin of time. We all want to have as much of a large block of personal time as possible, yet it gets tougher and tougher to find that block in our speeded-up, efficiency-oriented society."
Maybe so. But the way you can hoard some of that precious time is by getting into Gorenberg's habit of completing those errands on the way to work. Yes, it means getting up earlier. Yes, it means forethought and planning. But there are advantages: Fewer people to contend with, free evenings, real lunch hours and pleasant and bright-eyed clerks, dentists, mechanics and hairstylists yet to have a bad day.
Plus, you get to the office with a feeling that you've already accomplished something, says Gorenberg. In fact, she wishes more places would open earlier so she could run even more errands before work.
"Like the drugstore," she says. "They never open before 9 or 10."
If picking up prescriptions can't be on the list, observers say there are plenty of other missions that can be accomplished before mid-morning.
"More and more, businesses are switching from late evening hours to early morning hours because they're beginning to realize that there's a demand for it and that they can charge a premium for meeting that demand," says consumer psychologist David Stewart, a professor of marketing at the University of Southern California.
"This trend is catching on fastest in urban areas where there are more workers and a competitive marketplace."
It's definitely evident in the car maintenance industry, agrees Geoff Sundstrom, a spokesman for the American Automobile Association in Heathrow, Fla. Convenience-oriented shops for quick tune-ups, oil changes and new tires are a result. All open early, of course.
A check of a few San Jose, Calif., area businesses and offices reveals a good number of them open as early as 7 a.m. Owners and managers verify that those couple of hours before 9 a.m. are very popular with people on their way to work.
"I get here by 7:30 always, sometimes by 7 if a client wants to come in that early," says Linda Crossland, Gorenberg's stylist at Designers Ltd. "Many of them are on their way to jobs where they're not sure what the end of the day is going to look like. Coming in first thing gives them more control over their limited time."
Michelle Higbee, owner of Madeline's Dog Salon, started opening her shop earlier about three years ago at the request of customers. Typically, owners drop off their pooches before work and pick them up during the lunch hour or at the end of the day.
"We get calls from people who get very excited when they find out we open at 8 instead of 10," says Charles Beard, co-owner of Tree House Florist. "They want to order flowers when they're thinking about it, before they get caught up in their workday."
Because no one can altogether escape running errands, part of the appeal of doing them in the morning is the illusion that there's less time wasted, says USC's Stewart.
"We tend to feel like we have more time if it's not divided up," adds Jane Halpert, an industrial psychologist at DePaul University in Chicago who tracks workplace issues. Most people, she's discovered, would much rather run errands during an already hectic workday, if it means they can clear a big chunk of time for their weekend. That's why she does her grocery shopping before work.
"With the winters we have here, I can buy ice cream and leave it in the trunk all day," she says.
If this all seems like a terribly analytical and uptight way of dealing with life's routine maintenance, consider a recent survey that estimates the average adult spends almost a full 14-hour weekend day performing chores, including those tasks that fall into the errand-running category.
It might be enough to get you to set that alarm clock an hour early.