Don’t you love that feeling in the morning when the day is full of rightness and promise? For me, this typically happens in the first 15 minutes of my morning when the house is quiet, my other family members deeply asleep. I can enjoy the quiet, meditate, and simply think through my day. However, once my other family members wake up one by one, the mornings are often time-pressed, rushing around to get the family ready for the day.
I have found the items below have made me happier and less frazzled as I step through my morning. Please read on for tips that will make you more organized in the crucial early morning hours each and every day!
1. Pack your lunches and bags the night before.
Doing this helps you to wind down the night before, and start mentally preparing for the next day. You may buy lunch occasionally, but packing your lunch most days will keep you on track with both diet and budget. Also, being disciplined in packing your bags each night helps prevent any last minute forgotten items the next day.
2. Know the weather forecast.
There is now little excuse NOT to know the forecast. Smart phones have changed the way we can obtain the weather forecast, making it accessible at the push of a button. You can now look up the next several days or the next several hours to plan appropriate clothing and to gauge how weather may affect your planned activities. You should be looking up weather forecasts every evening as you are planning your next busy day.
3.Set out outfits for yourself and your kids the night before.
This takes the guesswork out of getting dressed each morning. Of course, you should first do step 2, investigate the weather, so you will be spot on in your clothing choices.
You will have less arguments with your kids, particularly any opinionated toddlers, with this tactic. If your child wants to weigh in on their outfit choice, they are welcome to do so, the night before. It is much smoother and less dramatic to do this at bedtime rather than in the AM when you are pressed for time.
4. Wake up 15 minutes before your family members.
The reason for doing this is mostly selfish – you get a quiet moment to collect your thoughts and get things started. For example, I start arranging my kids’ breakfasts, grab my own breakfast, and get my coffee brewing. However, waking early has additional health benefits, including a better sense of accomplishment and less procrastination. In other words, you will be more productive and happier!
5. Have a routine for you and your kids.
We are all creatures of habit. Kids particularly thrive in the setting of routine – go potty, brush teeth, get dressed, breakfast. In addition, kids with routine are emotionally healthier and more socially adjusted. Sure, the first time or two you institute this will be challenging and sometimes painful. But once it is expected, it will feel natural and there will be much less conflict.
6. Check your calendar and your list of “things to do.”
Doing this the night before your day and each morning helps to avoid forgetting anything. I am pretty good at remembering my own appointments, but with 2 kids and a husband, sometimes it is hard to juggle everyone’s responsibilities. And sometimes, my cat has a vet appointment, too! I am partial to Google Calendar, since I can access it via my Google account on any device. I share my Google Calendar with my husband, which is incredibly helpful. I also love the “reminders” feature on my cell phone. I can set it to remind me at a particular day and time, e.g. “stop at the pharmacy tonight at 5 pm” or “pay the credit card bill next Tuesday evening.” There are tons of other time management apps and websites out there to choose from. Use technology to your advantage!
I have tried different exercise times. With 2 kids and a full time job, doing a workout right after getting home is really not feasible. (Once the kids are older, I predict there will be more after-school activities to keep me busy.) I am lucky enough to get an afternoon off each week, but that only accounts for one day. I also have an evening session of office hours each week, which adds to my late night fatigue. Late evening workouts have made it harder for to wind down and fall asleep easily. Lately, I have therefore preferred exercising in the morning. One huge benefit of this: once it is done, you are done for the day! I understand this is not always practical (I get it – have had to work at 6 am or 7 am with prior jobs). If this is your scenario, try to simply stretch or do some core strengthening exercises for 10 minutes in the morning. At first, it may be time consuming, but with practice, you can easily pare down your workout to a nice quick routine. It will make you a healthier person and help stave off coronary artery disease and diabetes. And you will feel amazing!
8. Come up with 2-3 doable goals for the day.
I have started doing this formally in the last couple of weeks, after hearing it suggested on several podcasts I love to listen to. I sometimes combine this with my “reminders” list. However, actually jotting your goals down on a wipe board or Post -It note holds you more accountable. It is crucial to keep your goals concrete and doable, so you mark off that “check box” or “strike it off” your list. So gratifying! Actually seeing the goals somewhere in writing also makes you more likely to carry them out. This is a great exercise for your longer term goals as well, e.g. at 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, etc.
9. Write down one thing you are thankful for.
Again, this is something new I have adopted in the last couple of weeks after some suggestions from other personal development websites. I do this mindfully and purposefully during my morning workout. It is so easy to fall into a rut of negative thinking and pessimism. Many of us, however, are blessed and fortunate beyond what we often consciously think about. I never worry about where my next meal will come from. I have more than enough clothes for myself and my family. I have a strong, sturdy roof over my head. My family is full of love and good health. Thinking in terms of optimism and gratitude improves your mood and sets the tone for happier day.
10. Fight the impulse to check your email and social media!
I myself fall into a rut of checking these “just for a second” in the morning while getting ready. 5 minutes later I look up at the clock and start cursing myself for doing so. Start setting aside specific times each day to check your email and social media, and for a specific time period. Set a timer on your phone to go off when the time has finished. Being more disciplined with these time drains will free up more of your time to accomplish your daily goals.
11. Leave 5 minutes sooner than your goal “leave time.”
Personally, this has become more challenging, now that I have two children instead of one. (It seems I have gotten exponentially less efficient each morning!) But my time in the Navy and military ingrained in me a sense of being prompt, and it still haunts me to this day. “10 minutes early is on time. On time is late. Late is unacceptable.” Whoever created this mantra must not have had young kids, right? Or any pets. (Last minute vomit a la cat, or leg rub on your freshly lint-rolled dress pants. Sound familiar to anyone else?) Setting a 5 minute buffer on your leave time will give you a bit more wiggle room and more success in getting out of the house on time. If you need a longer buffer, then by all means use one.
Toward a Better, Smoother Morning
I hope the tips I have laid out for you will make you more organized and less frantic each morning. Starting out the day on the right note is a crucial first step to a better, more productive day!