Prepare And Pre-Pack
What do you wish for your morning routine? Create a "to do" checklist for each day -- at least until you establish a consistency. Talk with your kids about what their morning routines should look like too. Young kids may have fun drawing pictures of each step of their morning schedules, while adolescents and teens can benefit from creating "responsibility charts" that will help them sail smoothly through their daily routines. Make pre-packing easier by creating inboxes (and in turn, their outboxes) for each person. Have each person unload their backpack (or your purse or work bag), and keep important papers and must-haves for next day's use.
Get Future Focused
Go over your next day's schedule before bed. Check the weather report too. You'll sleep better -- and dress better -- if you know as much as possible of what's in store. And don't forget to call ahead for carpool so you don't spend half the morning making last-minute transportation arrangements for kids' activities. Arrange all necessary transportation as early as possible, at least the day before. If you're driving, fill the gas tank the night before if you're running low.
Work Before Play
Naturally, you might want to "have a moment" before kicking off your day. Time management expert Laura Stack says, "It can be easy to sit down with a cup of coffee and get sucked into surfing the Web." She says that working women should shower and get dressed before they start any morning tasks. For moms, she says, "If you miss that chance to take care of yourself first, then later, when your kids start tearing each other's hair out, your makeup just isn't going to happen."
Coordinate the bathroom schedules of the people you live with.
Make A Fast Breakfast Matter
Have the coffee machine prepared so that all you have to do is press "on," or make a pitcher of iced coffee ahead of time. Keep a to-go cup handy so you can have your morning jolt while you drive your kids to school. Have a lineup of several routine breakfasts to serve, with at least one being portable. "If you're making a smoothie in the morning, put everything in the blender with the lid on the night before and store it in the fridge," Stack says. You can also set out nonperishables and any pots or pans you might need in advance.
Swap Caffeinated Drinks For Water
Caffeine fires up fight-or-flight hormones (like adrenaline) which can give you a temporary energy boost, but when those hormones wear off, your energy crashes. Personal trainer Jim Karas says to train yourself to enjoy Mother Nature's elixir and your energy (and morning productivity) may increase.
Plan Your Outfit
Prearrange your clothes, ironing anything that needs it. When possible, buy wrinkle-free. O creative director Adam Glassman says, "Go for low-maintenance fabrics: stain-resistant, wrinkle-free pieces that emerge from the washer and dryer looking polished. And develop a stylish, authoritative uniform: a well-fitting top and pants or trouser-style jeans."
Ready, set... shower! If you tend to linger too long when you check email, eat breakfast or any consistent daily task, organization expert Julie Morgenstern suggests setting a timer to keep everything on track.
Your face doesn't get dirty while you sleep; splash it with water instead of using a cleanser in the morning (unless you're very oily). Skin toner too. You may like how it feels, but it doesn't improve your skin.
A Smarter (Colder) Shower
Replace your regular soap with a foaming shower oil or hydrating body wash so you can clean and moisturize at the same time. Don't bother with body scrubs or peels: Use a damp washcloth (with a little pressure) to exfoliate in the shower. Always use shaving gel. It gives you a closer shave so you won't have to use your razor as often, and it's hydrating. Try ending your morning shower with a spray of cold water -- it can be incredibly invigorating. Research from the London-based Thrombosis Research Institute found that cold water improved participants' blood circulation and offered them renewed vigor.
Practically Perfect Hair
Wear your hair between chin and shoulder length so it's short enough to air-dry and style quickly but long enough to pull back if you need to. It takes a lot of time to fight your hair's natural texture, so choose a cut that complements it. When you don't have time to style your bangs (or they're just not cooperating), use a wide (two-inch) headband to smooth them back. The band will look most stylish positioned close (about half an inch) to the hairline. Another morning quickie? After you've applied body lotion, hand cream, or sunscreen, smooth whatever is left on your hands over your hair to tame flyaways. If your hair looks dirty, spray the roots with hairspray -- the alcohol in it absorbs excess oil.
Makeup For Lost Time
Keep your makeup case organized, and minimal, with your everyday things most accessible. Have two different makeup routines -- one normal, one makeup "lite" for really rushed days.
No News Is Good News
You might want to try avoiding the news in the morning -- at least until the bulk of your to-do list is complete. Depressing reports can distract you from efficiently accomplishing your a.m. routine -- getting ready for work, feeding the kids, mentally preparing for a good day, says Los Angeles lifestyle coach Ruth Klein. If you really want to watch a morning show, DVR it.
Keep your cell phone in its charger, right on top of your briefcase or purse.
Keep The Peace
Tempers can flare when children are still half asleep. Prevent sibling spats by making sure your house rules cover things like sharing clothes, bathroom etiquette and sharing front-seat privileges on the way to school.
Stop Catering To The Kids
If you find yourself going out of your way to do <em>everything</em> for your family in the morning, no wonder you're scrambling to get out the door. According to time management expert Laura Stack, some parents overcompensate for the way they were raised -- and don't let their kids do anything. "Parents are not servants; they're teachers," Stack says. "It's okay to let other people pack the lunches or make the beds -- even if they don't do it the same way you do." Stack suggests assigning chores to each child to help speed up the get-out-the-door process. A good rule to enforce is that kids don't get their privileges -- watching TV, playing video games, talking on the phone -- until after they fulfill their responsibilities. Stand firm. You can try a chore-reward system (think, extra playdates) if you achieve a week of on-time arrival and departures.
Above All, Stay Focused
Morning is no time to be industrious. If you're hit by the urge to wash a few dishes, pay a few bills, or clean up old email and mail... fight it! Once you have your morning routine down and get everyone out the door and on their way, aim to streamline after-school, after-work and post-kids-bedtime efficiency strategies.
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Handle Things Once (Saves 15 To 20 Minutes)
When it comes to email, voicemail, or paperwork, take instant action -- i.e., read, answer, delete, file -- so you don't have to come back to it. The accumulated time saved can add up to ten hours a month, says Jana Kemp, a Boise, Idaho, "time architect" and the author of <em>No! How One Simple Word Can Transform Your Life</em>.
Don't Listen To The News First Thing In The Morning (30 Minutes)
Depressing reports can distract you from efficiently accomplishing your a.m. routine -- getting ready for work, feeding the kids, mentally preparing for a good day, says Los Angeles lifestyle coach Ruth Klein. If you really want to watch "Good Morning America," TiVo it.
Make Good Use Of Waiting Time (30 Minutes)
Don't go to the doctor without taking something to do -- work papers to read, stamped notecards to catch up on correspondence -- advises Laura Stack, author of <em>Find More Time</em>. Bring a book or magazine to the bank; pay bills while on hold with a credit card company.
Think "Half-Time" (30 Minutes)
Arrange a carpool for your child's ballet class or soccer practice, Stack suggests (that way, you'll cut driving time by at least half). Wear a wireless headset so you can water plants or pick up toys as you talk on the phone. And, whether you're cooking chili or baking cookies, make a double batch, freezing what you don't use.
Be Decisive And Move On (Up To 60 Minutes)
Every minute spent waffling can slow down your ability to take action, says Kemp. For example, rather than spending six hours researching the best round-trip airfare deal -- only to save $25 in the end -- give yourself 45 minutes to comparison price shop, then make a decision.
Lighten Up On Your Cleaning Standards (30 To 45 Minutes)
Aiming for "dirt removal" versus "perfectly spotless" can free up a lot of time. "In my house, I wipe down the stall after showering instead of doing a big thorough scrub every week," says Stack. "Consider washable throw rugs rather than carpets that need constant steam-cleaning, and change the heating and cooling system filters quarterly to cut down on dust."
Write It Down (60 Minutes)
Constantly cycling through a to-do list in your mind hinders productivity and creativity, says Klein. Carry a pad or BlackBerry and jot down what's got to get done, clearing your mind so you can come up with work solutions and new ideas more quickly.
Turn Off Technology During Your High-Energy Time (90 Minutes)
Pinpoint the time of day when you are at your freshest, and remove all distractions, says Klein: For example, route all calls to voicemail and avoid your email in-box. You'll be much more productive.
Monitor Time-Sapping Addictions (60 Minutes)
According to the latest American Time Use Survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2005 the average U.S. citizen watched 2.6 hours of television a day. "Reducing your television-watching time by five hours a week adds up to 11 extra days a year," says Stack, who also suggests setting a timer (no more than 60 minutes) for Internet surfing.