I’ll admit it’s taken several years to begin to grasp the “morning routine” at our house. Either the boys are pulled together — dressed, combed and clean — and the lunches are packed (while I leave with half-curled hair) or I’ve managed to wear mascara and comb my hair (but my fifth grader is tardy yet again).
Mornings are rough in every household. We aren’t special. We parents put on our game faces, get out there and try to do it all — and sometimes we are victorious. And, other times we arrive to work wrinkled, with little-to-no makeup on.
But mornings started getting a lot easier when I began observing my family and really paying attention to each person’s rhythm. Yes. It’s possible to train your troops to work in tandem for a smooth, synchronized morning. And I think it’s worth it.
1. Prep the Night Before
The key to morning efficiency is in what you can do ahead of time. When planning your outfit, check that all the items are clean so you’re not surprised to find a splat of crusty tomato sauce as you head into your meeting.
Establish a morning routine for your kids, and encourage them to check their backpacks before bedtime to make sure homework and books are packed and items like permission slips or report cards are signed.
Lastly, be sure to check the weather so you’re not searching for rain boots and umbrellas at the last second.
2. Reward Speediness
It’s really tough to get yourself ready while trying to get someone else ready, too. One strategy is to get up a half hour before your kids, but there’s another way: make it into a game!
Announce to your children that whoever’s at the kitchen table dressed with hair and teeth brushed gets a sticker on a “morning routine chart.” Once they’ve reached five stickers, reward them with a small but irresistible prize — like music control in the car for the week.
3. Bundle Your Essentials
Prevent the panic of being halfway out the door only to realize you have no idea where your keys, cell phone and wallet are. Put all of your essential items in the same spot every time you walk in the door. Install hooks for keys and a shelf or small basket near the door so your essentials stay in the same vicinity.
4. Make a Lunch Chart
If you find yourself scanning the fridge every morning stumped at what to put in your kids’ lunchboxes, those are precious minutes you could spend doing something else (like your makeup). On Sundays, map out a meal plan for the week and post it to the refrigerator next to your morning routine chart. The plan can also double as a grocery list.
5. Get Smart about Breakfast
Quick-fix healthy breakfasts are a must on busy weekday mornings. Stock your freezer with pre-cooked multigrain oatmeal in single-serving portions to heat in the microwave. Use an immersion blender (a cinch to clean) to mix together a sliced banana, 3/4 cup of low-fat milk, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and a dash of honey.
Need coffee to function? Set up the coffee maker the night before and then hit the power button as you head to the bathroom in the morning. Or better yet, buy a machine with a timer so a fresh pot of coffee is waiting for you when you get up in the morning!
6. Count on the Cubby System
Teachers use cubbies in their classrooms, so why not start the same system at home? Create a cubby for each family member to store backpacks, mittens, ballet shoes and any other accessory.
For added fun, let the kids personalize their cubbies with decorations. You can even make one for the dog!
7. Lose the Snooze
Hitting the snooze button is a waste of valuable minutes. You aren’t getting quality sleep, and the minutes you spend dazed in bed could be used to fully wake up.
Avoid snooze-button temptation by placing your alarm on the other side of the room. And consider keeping your blinds slightly open so the natural light signals to your body that it’s time to rise and shine.
So give a few of these a shot. And don’t worry. If the whole thing still falls apart and your morning is still crazy, there’s always tomorrow.