As a busy small business owner mom with two elementary age kids, I can honestly say that if someone offered me a six figure lump sum payout in exchange for a guaranteed extra 30 minutes in the morning, it would be a hard call for sure. The 100 minutes or so between waking and carpool drop off are without a doubt the most stressful for me and unfortunately often the most important as they can set the tone for either a great day or begin the dangerous domino effect of a lousy one.
The great news is that I’ve stumbled across 5 simple habits that have become the key to my morning sanity (and saved me about 30 minutes in the process):
1. Getting up an hour earlier to exercise – I’m definitely NOT a morning person, but getting up at 6 a.m. to jog daily has been one of the BEST decisions I’ve made in a long time. It’s so much easier to manage the rest of the day knowing that my exercise is done and out of the way. It also helps because I’m not dragging around bleary eyed, screaming at kids to brush their teeth when I really need to be running a tight ship. Instead, I’m more than awake and ready to take on the morning.
2. Doing absolutely everything (than can be) for the kids the night prior - I’m not just talking about the typical showers the night prior, laying clothes out, packing lunches, yada yada. Yes, that’s all mandatory, but I stumbled across some really minor tasks that can add up to some real time savings if you prep them in advance. My personal list of night before prep activities includes laying out their mosquito bands along with vitamins/allergy meds on their breakfast placemat, putting shoes by their chair, putting out cups and plates for breakfast on the counter by the fridge, putting backpacks by the door, pre-pouring fluoride rinse for morning teeth brushing, etc. It only takes me 10 minutes or so to do these things the night prior but easily saves me that much time or more the following morning because small tasks like opening jars, counting out pills, looking for shoes, sunblock, water bottles etc. can eat up valuable time during a frantic morning. I’m convinced that a touch of evening OCD is the key to morning sanity!
3. Eliminating distractions - I’m almost embarrassed to admit this one, but in case anyone else is also missing the obvious, I must share…TV/Ipads/technology and getting out the door quickly do NOT mix. We’d gotten into the habit of having the TV on in the background while the kids were eating breakfast and although we’d occasionally have to nudge them to keep eating, we had NO idea the difference it made until we stopped. My husband actually stopped turning on the TV while the kids were eating breakfast (by accident I think) and then we consciously decided to keep it off. Amazingly, they didn’t really notice, but the time savings were huge. Not only did we avoid having to take the time to find TV remotes, find the right channel, negotiate who gets to pick the show, hear the whining about turning the show off in the middle of “the best scene MOM”, it also made mornings so much more serene not having the background noise and distraction keeping them from eating and getting out the door on time.
4. Creating an incentive for the kids to get themselves ready quickly – It seems like there’s always something that they can’t wait to do as soon as they get up. I’ve learned to just turn that into a reward for going to the bathroom, brushing their teeth and getting dressed. Our daughter is obsessed with building Lego sets (currently working on the Simpsons Kwik E Mart) so it’s worth it to her to do those three things when she first wakes up in order to get to work on her Lego set for 20 minutes or so before I call her down for breakfast. Shifting the paradigm from my yelling “Brush your teeth….get dressed!” about a million times to having them do it automatically (most of the time) is priceless!
5. Writing a chronological To-Do list the night prior - I’ve developed a habit of religiously writing out my To-Do list in chronological order the night before. I always write the time I need to leave the house at the top of the list and include specific details for event locations (e.g. addresses) and activities (e.g. conference call in numbers). If I’m going to a new location in the morning (e.g. camp drop off or a morning meeting), I program it into my GPS app the night prior so that it’s ready to go in the morning and I’m not sitting in the driveway scrolling through hundreds of emails trying to find the contact information.
Getting control of my mornings has been a HUGE boost for my psyche throughout the day. It’s not just about getting out the door on time, but also about moving towards a less chaotic, less stressful morning – woosah!
Dana Brownlee is an acclaimed keynote speaker, corporate trainer, and team development consultant. She is President of Professionalism Matters, Inc. a boutique professional development corporate training firm based in Atlanta, GA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with her on Linked In @ www.linkedin.com/in/danabrownlee and Twitter @DanaBrownlee.