How to Rock your Morning Routine
If your life is anything like mine, your mornings are truly a wonder to behold … a daily ritual that tests my strength of will, creativity, and patience. My alarm (which, I’m convinced could successfully substitute as torture device) hits me like a Mack truck at 5:00 am, and then it’s on -- breastfeed Emme, workout, shower, dress Livi (that is, if she’ll let me that morning), change diapers, wash faces, prepare breakfast, pack lunches, bags, and backpacks, and somewhere in there attempt to find 15 minutes to myself to get dressed and make myself look presentable to the public. Then it’s off to the races – battle traffic, get Livi to school, grab coffee (yes, it’s truly a necessity), and then WORK … all day. I often feel like I’ve worked a full day before I actually begin work! Sound familiar?
As exhausting as all this sounds, I’ve managed to get our routine down to a science. Well, at least as close as you can get to a science when you’re dealing with all the uncontrollable factors that pop up when you share your home with a two-year-old and five-month-old, which is to say, quite a few. Seriously … I’ve gamed this out, and using the three tips I’ll share with you today, I was able to shave a full 25 minutes off our morning routine! That’s 25 extra minutes to sleep, enjoy a cup of coffee, extend your workout, skim the newspaper or social media, meditate, you name it … it’s an extra 25 minutes for you! How many other opportunities do you have to squeeze 25 minutes out of your day to be used however you want? I’m guessing not many. So, how did I do it?
Plan, Prepare, and Divide & Conquer … just three easy steps, starting with the macro-, working our way down to the micro-level.
Each weekend, set aside thirty minutes to plan the week ahead. Take a look at the big picture, from a scheduling perspective – what do most days look like? Are there any days that require special planning or contain a non-routine event? For example, do you plan to arrive to work at 8:30 am most days, but on Tuesday you have an early morning meeting? Does your son or daughter have dance practice or a piano lesson one afternoon? Write it all down, and get a sense of the big picture for the week ahead.
Key Takeaway: Start each week with your eyes wide open, with a concrete schedule
Now that you have a sense of your schedule for the week, it’s time to drill down to the nitty-gritty of each day. Again, write it all down. Know exactly what you need to accomplish each morning. Detail is your friend here, so note anything that consumes time, even if it’s only a few minutes. For example: workout, dress, shower, prepare lunch, pack backpacks, prepare breakfast, wash faces, nurse the baby, load the dishwasher, check email, etc. And make sure to account for things you wouldn’t necessarily associate with getting ready in the morning, but that inevitably pop up: cleaning out a full diaper pail, taking out the trash, signing your child’s permission slip for a school field trip, etc. Only once you’ve identified everything you need to accomplish, can you figure out the most efficient way to get it all done!
Key Takeaway: Understand and account for every task you must complete each morning
Divide & Conquer
Now that you have your list, it’s time to divide and conquer. Go through the list and divide it into two sections: 1) tasks that you can complete ahead of time, and 2) tasks that you must complete each morning. For all the tasks that can be done in advance, plan to complete them the night before. This is key – the planning and preparation you do the night before is where we’re going to squeeze out that magical 25 minutes of bliss! For example, here’s a list of my “to dos” that I always knock off my list before I go to bed each night:
1. I lie out my workout clothes, fill up my water bottle, and pack my workout bag.
2. I choose my outfit and Livi and Emme’s outfits, and I lay them out, along with diapers and wipes, so they’re ready to throw on and go.
3. I pack both Livi and Jacob’s lunches and water bottles so all I need to do is grab them from the refrigerator.
4. I pack Livi’s backpack and my purse and place them by the door.
5. I prepare Livi’s oatmeal by mixing dry oats, cranberries, nuts and flaxseeds, and I set out fresh, washed berries. In the morning, I simply add water and microwave her oats, slice and add the fresh berries, and she’s greeted with a warm, yummy breakfast.
6. I load the dishwasher or laundry machine the night before, so it’s ready to go. Any last minute items get tossed in before I hit the “start” button on our way out the door.
Once you’ve divided your tasks accordingly, do a rough sketch of your morning. Figure out how to complete all your morning tasks in the most efficient way possible. Once again, write it all out. Identify items that overlap, and look for opportunities to multi-task. For example, while Livi’s oatmeal cooks, I collect lunches and water bottles from the refrigerator and pack them in Livi and Jacob’s bags. And while Livi eats her breakfast, I use those fifteen minutes to shower and dress for the day. Organizing the tasks will help you make the most of each minute, allowing you to save even more time.
Finally, just so you don’t lose your sanity, always reserve five to ten minutes for any last minute, unexpected hiccups. If you have kids, they’re going to happen … there’s no way around it. The best way to deal with it is to build in some wiggle room so it doesn’t send your schedule off the rails.
Key Takeaway: Identify tasks that can be completed the night before, and organize your morning tasks to make the most efficient use of your time.
Follow these three tips, and I guarantee you’ll squeeze an extra 25 minutes out of your day! What will you do with yours?